Tell Me About It

Inhabiting Emotion: Plains, Jungles, Quiet Seas

The hanging dress, with one sleeve slightly shorter than the other, underscores the dance's blend of the everyday and the surreal. White words, occasionally projected on the dark backdrop, hint at a progression: "earlier that day," "a year from now . . . " But sometimes when the lights come up after a blackout, a dancer simply continues with what she's been doing. Shick has created a lexicon of gestures that look both familiar and utterly strange; the women rearrange their limbs and unknowable, unseen objects as if dreaming their way through curious tasks, their every move sensuous yet delicate and precise. They gently lift their chins with their fingers, they hunch their shoulders, they walk on tiptoe almost as if primping, they sit and alter the position of their legs, they gaze upward. Every now and then, instead of dancing side by side, one will sit briefly on another's back or lie on top of her as if she were a bed.

We see the same movements again and again. Some are repeated exactly, like an entrance in which Thomas walks, both arms overhead, while Melnick, facing us and holding those arms with one hand, bourrées sideways. Other gestures keep changing as they alight on another dancer or occur in a different place or configuration. Even when Mapp and Wolfe inhabit two parts of the same complicated white garment (Kilpatrick also designed the fine costumes), their movements echo those of other peaceable, uninvolved duets.

Peaceable world: Shick and Mapp in Undoing
photo: Hiroyuki Ito
Peaceable world: Shick and Mapp in Undoing

How beautiful and how mysterious these women are! Watching, say, a solo by Melnick, I'm mesmerized anew by complexity, by how subtly changes in mind and body produce these crystal-clear gestures.

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