By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By Lilly Lampe
Experiencing Zvi Gotheiner's new Territories is like attending a very good party, where the food is plentiful and varied and the company lively. Here and there, you may encounter something inconsequential or foolish or a little bit boring, but far more often the level of conversationwhether witty or seriousengages you fully.
The analogy, of course, breaks down. You can't stroll from group to group at a dance concert (this one, like Keigwin's, part of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Project season). However, the Israeli-born Gotheiner solves a captive audience's problem with surprising changes of pace in what amounts to a string of vignettes stirred together with dancing, and a very broadly interpreted theme. The territories that the dancers mark via fanciful chalk lines on the floor before the performance actually starts are meant to be breached in positive ways, as when Kuan Hui Chew teaches a Chinese song to Todd Allen (who occasionally has to break into a brief twisty bout of dancing in order to loosen his tongue for further instruction), or when Eric Hoisington, during a runway parade in which the dancers introduce themselves, outlines the strictly defined codes of his upper-class WASP familyleaving us to guess what boundaries he had to cross to develop his beautifully articulate dancing. Near the end, all nine splendid and very diverse performers unite to sweep big, luscious dancing across the floor, while raising their voices together in a song praising King David that every kid in Israel learns.
Gotheiner apparently defines "territory" as country of origin, customs, neighborhood, one's apartment, and so on. In one of the few dark moments, Ying-Ying Shiau relates unnerving instances of racist taunts aimed at her by young black men in New York. Ashley Gilbert paces the balcony that rings the Duke's performing area, cell phone in hand, angrily telling her mother about neighbors whose noises and smells seep through the walls into her private space.
The choreographer credits his dancers as collaborators and it is largely because of their contributions and how he shapes them that Territories speaks so eloquently of individuality and cooperation. The performers not only speak and sing excellently; all of themAllen, Chew, Jimmy Everett, Gilbert, Hoisington, Elisa King, Barbara Koch, Shiau, and Verena Tremelget a chance to reveal themselves in dance. And all are distinctive movers, never superficial and fascinating to watch (has anyone ever achieved such lithe distortions while emphasizing fourth position as home base the way Everett does in his solo?). The choreography plays with themes of harmonysometimes incorporating folk-dance steps and patternsand encroachment. In one memorable and disturbing trio, Allen and Everett hold hands almost the entire time that they manipulate Shiau by the head, while her eyes stay closed.
At his most successful, Gotheiner weaves speaking and dancing together to illumine each other, aided by the music and its sometimes ironic juxtapositions. In addition to the richly varied instrumental music Scott Killian has composed, his taped score includes ominous thuds, Middle Eastern melodies, and male voices swelling in a pounding ritual that calls Carl Orff to mind. Interestingly, the performers' singing, like their dancing, also blends consensus and individual assertion. The harmonies that ensue when they sing "Home on the Range" a cappella are startling; the familiar song in Hebrew breaks down into canon and eventually into cacophony.