Contemporary

A Given Light

As part of its “Flower of the Season,” currently in its 14th year, Body Weather Laboratory (a forum for investigating kinesthetic and movement research that was initiated in 1988 by dancer/farmer and improvisateur, Min Tanaka), presented a new work by Oguri, the Japan-born Butoh dancer who leads BWL in Venice, and, to be blunt, never fails to astonish.

Blow Up

Waterbeds may have been a 70’s fad, but what about inflatable furniture? For a mere $74.95 (with free shipping, who knew?), Amazon offers the sofa of your dreams, one designed with a “waterproof-flocked top surface and a vinyl bottom that provides an incredibly comfortable sitting surface for any occasion.” For Lionel Popkin, a former Trisha Brown dancer and a choreographer who has mined his Hindu/Jewish roots, memorialized Ruth St. Denis and sautéed onions and curried zucchini in a range of works that satisfied, amused and, if not necessarily provoked, left indelible imagery nonetheless.

A Bowie Kaleidoscope

“The Bowie Project,” the brainchild of Austin-based choreographer Andrea Ariel, whose other credits include the choreography for the film Waiting for Guffman and a three-part dance-theatre series on the floating garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre, was an exercise in personae, layering, fragmenting, and improvisation. The performance, which incorporated three dancers, the David Bowie tribute band the Super Creeps, and three members of New York’s Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble, utilized Soundpainting, a “composing sign language” invented by musician Walter Thompson.

Silent Disco

Singing and dancing together usually add up to fun. Musicals, Broadway and Hollywood's golden era, are bound to put a spring in your step and a song on your lips. Recently, Damien Chazelle's award winning La La Land with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone tapping and singing sweetly shows reverence for the coupling and says we're willing to abandon ourselves to song and dance yet.

Local Gods

​There is no doubt that this year will go down as one of the strangest—and possibly saddest—in memory, at least politically speaking. And since the personal is political, with 2016 offering dashed dreams in terms of breaking the glass ceiling, the tragedy of Aleppo and the onslaught of so-called fake news, many of us, thankfully, continue to be consoled by art, with this writer particularly under dance’s spell for salvation. On that front, there was good news. Here, then—and in no particular order—are the dance highlights in what might otherwise be considered an annus horribilus.

Swing Time

And so, as I sit now before the keyboard looking back over what I have seen this year, the pieces I recall are those that conveyed honesty and “an energy.” Unfeigned, full-hearted, call it what you will. With my eye, Godard’s camera, my life coach, Graham, and the effortless hover and charm of Lucky and Penny only in dream, let’s look back at 2016.

A Note on Movement

Choreographer Gina Gibney takes a cue from Denby in “Folding In,” her first evening-length work since 2013 and her first work for Gibney Dance’s Lower Manhattan space. Each of her company’s five dancers—Nigel Campbell, Kassandra Cruz, Amy Miller, Devin Oshiro, and Brandon Welch—is, according to Denby’s criteria, intelligent. Not only are their movements meticulous and measured, but the potential effects of these varied steps are profound.

Fabrication

Any time between 3pm and 6pm. That was the deal. Any time within a window. And with freedom to explore. Come and go, as you please. The doors will be left open. Take photos, should you choose. Inhabit the space as you would a public area. Like a park, say. Be a living part of an assemblage. Move within the space. Walk through to the library. Squat beneath the window, recline on the slope, lean against the wall, perch on the ledge just inside the door: it’s up to you. Come, stay, and go, as you please, the invitation stood.

35 Years in the Making  

Phoenix Dance Theatre is one of the UK’s oldest contemporary dance companies outside of London. The Leeds-based troupe was founded in 1981 by three graduates, and has since evolved into a ten-member professional ensemble with a sizeable repertory—including works from the likes of Richard Alston and Didy Veldman—and bevy of stage credits around the UK and abroad.

Aftershock

Darkly, silvered, a grassland of manmade forms grows. It grows in the North Melbourne Town Hall. It is, for now, neatly contained within the designated performance space, but like all things in nature, it is as predictable as it is unpredictable. This constructed grassland of “over 270 poles, strips, or sheets of aluminium, brass, copper and sprung steel”[note]Ashley Dyer, Artist Statement, “Tremor” programme, Arts House, North Melbourne, Victoria, November 2016[/note] hums with life. Its presence felt from the moment I enter the space.