Throughout their remarkable, heart-stopping duet, Mann and Rindfleisch never abandon their watchfulness. Mann’s powerful physique, his alertness, and his curious blinking stare are unnerving, especially when he stands close to audience members and gazes at them, almost without comprehension. There are gentle moments. He listens to her heart. She nuzzles awkwardly against him. She removes her outer, sweat-soaked shirt and gives it to a spectator; later she returns, strips off her undershirt, gives him that, and puts the other back on.

But most of what the two do is violent, askew. Even the odd way Mann cranes his neck seems not entirely of his own volition. Invisible storms—whether from without or within—torque their bodies unimaginably, hurl their limbs about, slam themselves against the wall. Once, Mann charges at a bank of spectators, then stops, staring. In the end, Rindfleisch leaves the arena. Mann collects her undershirt and follows.

Now we onlookers are moved to the carpeted platforms at either side of the church. While our chairs are collected and taken away, we can survey another aspect of the landscape that has only begun to be fully visible. At our feet and scattered upon the altar platform and the steps leading to it are the fallen bodies of white plastic canines—eyeless, earless, whole, dismembered. A pile of little bones sits in one corner. Each carcass has a tiny, individual spotlight trained on it. (I later learned that these were molded from taxidermists’ coyotes that had been skinned, but they look like greyhounds). Into this landscape of devastation, Derry Swan and Wally Cardono gradually move. High, rhythmic owlish sounds follow them as they divest themselves of hoodies, gloves. They see each other but don’t touch, rarely even come close (at one point, she seems to smell him). They too stare at something we don’t see, but they’re calmer than the first pair, except for an amazingly wild solo burst of dancing from Cardono and a later one by Swan, and by the force with which they kick their legs out or pull themselves off balance.

Andrea Boardman and Bernard Martin in Édouard Lock’s Amjad.
Stephanie Berger
Andrea Boardman and Bernard Martin in Édouard Lock’s Amjad.

Details

La La La Human Steps
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
November 13 through 15

Kimberly Bartosik
Danspace at Saint Markís Church
November 6 through 8

These two make us think about the animals. Many times, they fall into cramped, hobbled poses that resemble those of the bleached creatures. I remember Pompeii’s victims, immobilized by lava in the last movements they made while alive. At one point, Swan walks among the bodies on the altar platform, cradles one, carries it to a piece of fabric, and sits beside it. Cardono pushes the whole thing across the floor. Just as the chill lights go off, the two are on the platform, quietly trying out the struck-by-death positions.

The tricky title, conflating ecstasy and exteriority, in no way unlocks—or prepares you for—the beautiful and wrenching enigma of Bartosik’s and Murray’s creation.

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