They come nearer. Achugar and Maar squirm, entwined, along the aisle between the two halves of the audience and approach the mirror. From now on, the reflecting surface becomes a place of self-discovery, as well as a site for Achugar’s investigation of illusions. She presses her mouth to it, opens her dress to lean her pregnant belly against its image. Maar sits close, spreads her legs, and tries positions that’ll give her a better view of her crotch. Clark approaches the mirror as if mesmerized by it. These five powerful, witty performers are not all dancer-skinny and toned, and they do all that they can to sabotage what’s considered trendily attractive. Using black electrical tape, they fashion bizarrely entrancing outfits out of dresses turned backward, draped sweat jackets, dresses as capes, sweat jackets as turbans.

Early on, the lights go out, and in the darkness, Achugar, who has displaced one spectator to sit in her chair, soothingly adjures us to get in touch with our sensuous selves, to let our brains melt into our pelvises, spread our buttocks, rock a little, use our “butt brains” for a change. (I’m into cellular brains myself, and I’m game to rock my pelvis a bit and feel Clark moving against my chair, but I don’t like being lectured and wish Achugar didn’t feel it necessary.)

The performers sometimes wander behind us. Clark plays a few notes of “Für Elise” on the piano amid some transgressive banging. Later, Achugar pounds out a rhythm for the others by sitting on the keyboard. As The Sublime Is Us progresses, Achugar begins to explore symmetry. Behind us or in front of us, dancers divide in ink-blot symmetry, as in a Petipa ballet. If two women behind one half of the audience stretch their arms to the right, those behind the other bank of spectators do the same to the left. And when they’re touching the mirror, two become four. Uncannily, we seem to see through the mirror to actual doubles. Achugar has also choreographed an unorthodox way for pairs to get to the mirror. Scootching along on their butts feet first, they cross and almost tangle their legs as they advance. Later, clumped behind us on the floor, they cluster their legs together, suggesting the worms in the can Achugar may have opened.

Luciana Achugar’s The Sublime Is Us
Alexandra Corazza
Luciana Achugar’s The Sublime Is Us

Details

Trajal Harrell
Dance Theater Workshop
October 15 through 18

Luciana Achugar
Dance Theater Workshop
October 21 through November 1

The piece seems about to end, with the women back in their original swarm, when mirrored screens are wheeled in and set close behind us. Now we can see our own backs and the backs of the dancers who sit close to the mirror and examine their faces. What we can’t see is Wong wandering around at the back of the studio, wearing only underpants and dark glasses. I can only glimpse her occasionally if I actually turn around. Her reflection has gone missing. As the piece ends, a woman in the audience checks the mirror and fixes her hair. What could be more natural, given the smoke-and-mirrors atmosphere of today’s political atmosphere?

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