The music and text that erupt and sink in Bruce Andrews’s vivid sound score (Michael Schumacher is also credited as a composer/musician) offer up snippets of Otis Redding, Ethel Waters, and other artists of the Harlem Renaissance, along with musicians associated with 1960s Memphis Soul and Bill Monroe’s bluegrass. But the voices and instruments are engulfed in a whirlpool of sound; tickling like light rain, crashing, squeaking like a rusty door are just some of the aural images. Andrews, who’s involved with Language Poetry, also presents a male voice reciting a disjunct monologue in a “white dialect” bristling with words like “heerd,” “fer,” and “wisht”—with all r’s hard.

Silvers is a wonderfully original creator of movement. Her own dancing employs a variegated palette, in which itchy little steps may be succeeded by big, bandy-legged strides, and suddenly rapt poses succeed gestures that suggest labor in the trenches. She can be an impish girl or a stiff old woman. In the interplay between delicacy and bold vigor, it’s as if images from a basketful of photos were being lightly flung into her body. The other dancers who come and go in skillfully designed solos and encounters show flashes of competitive athletes, Charleston dancers, martial arts experts, ballet students. In the same way, the songs and sounds in Andrews’s score light on them, color their actions, and slide away.

Keith Sabado enters grooving and performs—marvelously—a solo in which his body seems to be making ecstatic sense out of mixed messages. Tall Alan Good, another terrific dancer, employs a jolting, lurching walk—a stiff puppet with a mad master swinging his limbs. He scrunches up his face or opens his mouth in a maniacal smile. That he has a lamenting chorus of two women also gives him the air of a preacher whose congregation you’re glad not to be part of. Silvers has credited Jerry Lewis as being a source, and maybe if you pasted stills of Lewis together and used them as a choreographic score, you’d get a person who moved like this.

Joseph Poulson in Susan Marshall’s "Adamantine"
Rosalie O’Connor
Joseph Poulson in Susan Marshall’s "Adamantine"
Sally Silvers’s "Yessified"
Rachel Roberts
Sally Silvers’s "Yessified"

Details

Susan Marshall & Company
Alexander Kasser Theater, Montclair State University
March 26 through 29
973-655-5112

Sally Silvers & Dancers
Performance Space 122
150 First Avenue
March 22 through 29
212-352-3101

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The choreography makes skillful use of counterpoint and repetition. The first time that Javier Cardona, Alejandra Martorell, and Sara Beth Higgins advance toward us like slo-mo racers, their eyes are on the goal; when they repeat the sequence later, they’re shoving one another out of the way. There’s always something interesting or surprising going on in Yessified, and the dancers look great in Elizabeth Hope Clancy’s black-trimmed white costumes under Carolyn Wong’s astute lighting. Images linger in the mind—some of them swimming around issues (and non-issues) of race. When tall Higgins and Cardona back slowly away from us, holding Sabado stiffly upside down between them, Higgins looks imperturbable, while Cardona seems apprehensive, almost as if he, as a black man, doesn’t want to be caught doing this. Yet race becomes porous when tiny Takemi Kitamura takes on Cardona in a martial-arts combat (no matter what he does, once she gets her arms around him from behind, he can’t pry her hands loose). Then there’s the bit in which Silvers takes the silvered triptych Good has been using to get a tan and aims it at crucial body parts, including her crotch.

In the postmodern world that Yessified reflects, anything can mate with or follow anything else. Except when it can’t.

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