Everything about this woman is formal and dignified. Sher enunciates her sentences carefully, drawing out her words in a low, accented voice that’s musical but varies very little in pitch or rhythm (Little Island was written in Hebrew and translated by Noa Shabti and Neil Wacks). For long moments, she stares straight ahead, expressionless, almost numb. She telephones the police, which she has evidently done a number of times; she wants an officer to come over as soon as possible. Why? She doesn’t say. She also calls her doctor and asks him when he’d like to see her (note the way she phrases the question); she itches all over. You wonder why she suddenly sticks her feet straight out and wiggles her toes, but after a while she starts talking to an invisible masseur about a vacation in Brazil she may or may not have taken.

There’s a knock at the door, and a policeman (Walker Lewis) is standing there, which stuns her for a second. While he’s certainly solid looking, he’s a dream officer in terms of his behavior. When she tells him that “It is quiet here. I think something is wrong,” he endeavors to find out what kind of quiet and, after pacing for a while, decides this is a serious case. He accepts her invitation to stay, have some dinner, keep her company, but he’s radioed to proceed to an accident. Why is he played by an actor, while the masseur is more clearly imaginary? Does Martha Who’s power of imagination wax and wane?

When another knock comes, she guardedly opens the door. Who’s there? A multitude: friends, relations. She calls them joyfully by name, cries “Come in come in!” Are these members of a desired absent group? A family? If you think again about Martha’s black dress and the frightening quiet, you can believe these visitors are the remembered dead, and be suddenly moved for a tragedy you’re on the verge of understanding. Then the lights go out.

Chris Elam’s "Too Late Tulip," with Luke Gutgsell, Brynne Billingley, and Jennifer C. Harmer
ShaLeigh Comerford
Chris Elam’s "Too Late Tulip," with Luke Gutgsell, Brynne Billingley, and Jennifer C. Harmer

Details

Misnomer Dance Theater
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
212-352-3101
Through December 14

LeeSaar The Company
Annex Theatre at La MaMa
74A East 4th Street
212-475-7710
Through December 14

Harari’s One Day is performed by two extraordinary women: Jye-Hwei Lin, who’s tall and willowy, and Hsin-Yi Hsiang, who’s shorter and slightly sturdier. Both from Taiwan, they attended the University of Illinois at the same time and have presented their own work at Danspace; Lin performed in Harari’s 2007 Geisha. The title of the due is apt. Watching the dancers, you can believe that all the thoughts and responses of a day are passing through them and animating their movements. Sometimes we hear a recording of Mitsuko Uchida playing Mozart, sometimes snatches of other music (AGF, Perez Prado & His Orchestra, Alva Notobut). But mostly we hear the women’s breathing, their footsteps, and on occasion, their voices—as when Hsiang talks animatedly in one of the Chinese languages and Lin, bent over, hands resting on her knees, responds with a few words.

Harari presents these two fascinating performers in a state of almost constant flux—now poised and dancerly, extending straight legs into space; now clumsy and spraddle-legged, their heads jutting out at odd angles as if they’re craning to find something. Modes of behavior and reactions wash over them like water coming out of a showerhead. At times they swagger, waggle their hips almost lewdly, or strut like models. Once, for a second or two, Lin—elbows, knees, and hips akimbo—resembles a Balinese dancer. Once she settles into a martial arts stance. There are moments in which both women seem to be trying to fit their mobile bodies and limbs into oddly shaped crannies of space (the effect is curiously sensual). At first, they throw or stretch their movements away from them, rather than gathering the space in.

They dance in unison. They perform different steps simultaneously. I can’t recall them touching. Twice Lin leaves the stage. For the most part, they’re absorbed in their own thoughts and explorations, but at certain points, they, or just Hsiang, come very close to the first row or spectators and confront them with a sexual bravado. Tough or tender, they’re amazing. And mysterious. But these mysteries don’t need to be solved. In our hearts and our own bodies, we know them.

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