Like a matador or a lion tamer, Margarita Guergué has made a career of flirting with beasts. Her knack for evoking psychic terror and knowing just when to step out of harm's way led to a Bessie in 1990. Yet lately the Barcelona-born choreographer has traded raw theatricality for striking restraint.
The hoop-diving, belly-sucking, jaw-tugging acrobatics of past works are notably absent in De Flor, which opens Thursday at P.S. 122. Guergué describes the piece alternately as a collective meditation or a landscape of light, sound, and traces of movement. "I wanted to see what happens if you take away the assumption that a dance has to produce a visual shower. There's movement here, but it moves at a different frequency, the frequency of nothingness."
The slower aesthetic grew out of a six-month residency in Japan, where she studied with Kazuo Ohno. While De Flor shares butoh's glacial pacing, it swaps postapocalyptic gloom for earthy goodness. "I'm working with cycles of death and renewal in nature and society," says Guergué, whose past lives no doubt included turns as a shaman and metaphysical poet. "It doesn't pretend to have a beginning and an end. The accent's on being."
In a nod to structure, her improvisational duets with Vicky Shick and Cydney Wilkes punctuate several ensemble pieces. But narrative takes a backseat to the atmospherics of Zen minimalism and New Age wholeness. De Floralso marks a departure for musician and dancer Mimi Goese, who tries her hand at lighting design with slide projectors and a glass jar. "Call it modern psychedelia," she says. "It's very low-tech."
But Guergué's taking the biggest risk. "She's throwing out all of her proven dramatic techniques," says composer Hahn Rowe, who DJ's De Flor. Guergué explains: "Dance is becoming more and more touchable, efficient, and pleasing to experience. I want to look into the untouchable and to see how little you can do while still creating dance."