In the end, the performers start racing around, discarding most of their clothes, divesting themselves of plot and character. They’re leaping, gamboling, frisking, eating up space, having a wonderful time. There’s also a coda that extends beyond the end of the piece and the bows and cheers. Three completely new performers run down the aisle, one of them dressed like Boulé. They cluster and giggle around a large, mysterious rectangle of dim green light that’s been there before. As we exit, they’re still repeating their pattern of three or so moves. Teenagers, a swimming pool. It could all start over again.


I wish I’d seen Bill Young and Colleen Thomas’s original Life (In Progress) last year in their studio theater at 100 Grand Street. Not that Life (In Progress) II’s scenic and lighting designer Rebecca Makus didn’t do a splendid job of turning DNA’s performance space into a combination of a home workspace (bed, couches, tables, chairs, garments strung on clotheslines) and a run-down ’70s-style discothèque (a cluster of chairs, pillows, cocktail tables with cheap candy and beads for the audience to make use of, balloons falling into the room). It’s just that I think I’d have enjoyed this new crazy quilt of events more had I seen it in a truly homey setting; the vivid, imaginative scraps might have shone even more brightly and the threadbare ones been more forgivable. (And I might have felt freer to adjust my seat, as the program advised, or grab something from the mini-bar whenever I felt like it.)

Young and Thomas invited a number of dancers they’d worked with before to join them in both making the piece and performing in it. And they’re all terrific when the spotlight falls on them in episodes ranging from goofy to alarming—most of them supported in one way or another by Georgio Kontos and Daniel Clifton’s sound design (itself a potpourri). No strong thread runs through Life (whose title implies that both it and life itself are an ongoing project), unless you count the peculiar gender-toppling tale concocted by Bryan Kepple and Alfonso Suarez that’s revealed in intermittent episodes—partly via Jason Somma’s videos of other spaces inside and outside the building, partly in a corner of the room. Over the course of the two-hour evening, glamorous “Susan Murray” (Kepple) comes home from work and yoga class, gets dolled up, pours herself a drink or two, and sets the table (occasionally watched by a mysterious detective, played by Suarez). “The Man of Her Dreams” (Edith Raw) arrives at Susan’s door. But somehow, when the excited hostess is in her kitchen, she forgets that she’s turned on the gas without lighting it. Oops! She dies. But she’s reincarnated (?) in a different wig and gown and brings the evening to a close by singing very soulfully that great song, “What Now My Love?”

Michele Boulé, Miguel Gutierrez, and Tarek Halaby in  
Gutierrez’s "Last Meadow"
Yi-Chun Wu
Michele Boulé, Miguel Gutierrez, and Tarek Halaby in Gutierrez’s "Last Meadow"

Details

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People
Dance Theater Workshop
September 15 through 19

Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Dancers
Dance New Amsterdam
September 16 through

Whether you change seats or not, your head gets a workout, turning to watch this or that area of the room. It’s a busy place. Even when, say, Thomas, as a shrink whose time slots are shorter than the amount of time it takes to buy a Metrocard, is questioning Julia Burrer, Ted Johnson and Jenna Riegel are humping with bored determination on another couch, Darrin Wright and Marc Mann are curled up on the bed, Anthony Phillips is writing his often witty assessments of Thomas’s patients on a big pad, and Pedro Osorio, Megan McQuillan, Clifton, and Young are lurking or lounging somewhere. Never have I noticed so many doors leading out of the space.

Somma’s projected live-feed videos are a major force in the work. They not only give some spectators a better view, but offer different perspectives on what we see. Here are some of the highlights of the evening. Burrer performs “bedroom salsa” with Osorio, who’s harnessed and dancing on the wall, while the tilted video puts her horizontal to the floor. Young, Johnson, and Riegel vault and wrestle and tumble over, on, and around one another and a not very large table in a flood of daredevil maneuvers. Burrer and Thomas (first seen simultaneously live and on video in one open doorway and in the space beyond it) dance in strenuous unison while laughingly playing something like that maddening kid’s game in which one person repeats whatever the other says). Phillips briefly pulls down his trousers to reveal red-feathered panties, and struts like a rooster in between bouts of writing about the therapy session. When a big, swooping duet between Thomas and Mann ends with them tangling on the floor, McQuillan—watched closely by Somma’s camera—gravely duplicates their positions with little artists’ mannequins.

The dancing, as always in Young’s work, is luscious, earthy, fluid. The rough-and-tumble daring of it—whether conceived as passionate or challenging or playful—is ultimately life-affirming. I look forward to seeing him and/or Thomas choreograph through-composed pieces again.

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