People in Black

Lyon Opera Ballet and Wally Cardona Quartet at Jacob’s Pillow

With his compelling Trance Territory (2000), Cardona began to investigate rave, primal ritual, and their connections. In the premiere, he, Joanna Kotze, Kathryn Sanders, and Matthew Winheld, like DJs, remix learned material at every performance, morphing smoothly from one segment to another. The result is both compelling and oddly distancing, the strenuous movement a blend of the sensual and the near robotic. You get the impression that the dancers' arms are always straight (even though this isn't really true), moving from the shoulder the way their legs swing from the hips. Their demeanor remains cool, even though their frequent stares upward hint at apprehension. Consensus figured in Trance Territory; it rarely does here.

In a duet that occurs in a rectangle of light off to the side, the atmosphere heats up. Sanders scrabbles on her belly while Cardona runs around her. As they approach one another with stiff arms wheeling, you imagine they want to embrace, but fear they can only intersect. Then, when they're nose to nose, Cardona bends his elbow to grasp Sanders's hip; the effect, aided by the new sound of water lapping a tub (courtesy of Plexus) is almost thunderously erotic in contrast to everything else .

Matthew Winheld and Joanna Kotze in the Wally Cardona Quartet's Morph: Live Remix,
photo: Mike Van Sleen
Matthew Winheld and Joanna Kotze in the Wally Cardona Quartet's Morph: Live Remix,

In this humming, buzzing, ticking world, the dancers rest amid spectators, stalk around, thrash. I think of dolphins, of giraffes, but only briefly. The dancing and the physical setting are rife with implicit drama, but the structure thwarts it. We sit very close to Morph, yet remain apart.

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