Shifting Labyrinth

A construction site or ancient remains or a mental labyrinth—all great dancing grounds

In a dialogue between Wally Cardona and David Gordon, printed in the BAM program for Cardona's Everywhere, the choreographer used the words groundedand workful in relation to the quality he wanted from the dancers. Given that Cardona, Joanna Kotze, Kathryn Sanders, Matthew Winheld, and Kana Kimura share the BAM Harvey stage with 300 four-foot, square-edged columns, this is not a piece that offers dancers a chance to wield glamour and charisma. Cardona also referred to the striking set as a minefield. A performer not focusing completely on the task at hand risks a smashed toe, or worse.

It's interesting that Gordon conducted the program interview; I see a link or two between his own "constructions" and this provocative new piece of Cardona's. Moving screens, say, or shifting lengths of fabric around were the main choreographic events in some of Gordon's works. For much of Everywhere, Cardona is a column-mover. While the audience assembles, he crosses the stage—evidently at various set intervals, although the system governing the timing of these isn't obvious. Over and over, he enters hefting a column, crosses the space, exits, and returns empty-handed. Although the musicians of Ethel (Ralph Farris, viola; Dorothy Lawson, cello; Cornelius DuFallo and Mary Rowell, violins) have entered one by one and taken their places in the two tiers of boxes that flank the stage, they don't play during this prelude. Instead, composer Phil Kline offers five different sounds (one is a thud like a muffled bass drum, one a forceful hoot, one a shimmer. . .), played at various intervals and in unpredictable order.

In addition to the musicians, over 50 boomboxes situated around the auditorium contribute their unpredictable voices to the composition. The dancers journey through a resonant, complicated space, navigable mainly because the columns are arranged in orderly rows. They could be the well-maintained ruins of a temple complex for very small people, except that there's nothing ritualistic about the choreography. Kotze and Sanders hustle through the aisles between pillars, occasionally breaking into the strut of runway models. Kotze and Winheld investigate the nature of the obstacles, passing among them, shooting a leg over one, holding hands as they turn and weave. Cardona, the worker-architect, creates new spaces for the dancing, and Roderick Murray's excellent lighting keeps pace with the alterations. At some point, Cardona balances a column horizontally atop a vertical one, continuing with another and another until he has created a kind of fence. By the time Kimura enters, he has cleared a small arena stage left.

The performers are all excellent, and, yes, they do dance, but the movement relates intensely to the space they're in. When sweeping gestures knock over columns (accidentally?), you wonder whether anyone will stop and pick them up. When Cardona recklessly topples most of them, it's a shock.

In the end Kotze and Winheld systematically start building a flight of steps. He carries a column to her, she places it, he gets another. They don't waste any time. When they've set every column in place, she, standing on the top step, gazes into the distance. He sits and stares back at the empty stage. This could be the beginning of a new dance. Maybe as fascinating as this one.

 
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