Sometimes the two women move side by side, bodies slightly askew, feet sliding along the floor, eyes contemplating us. Sometimes they’re a bit nutty, bumping into each other. But they also nestle together, and Uchizono (making terrible faces) leans backward over Harakas, who walks her upstage. In the end, Harakas again travels away from us, repeating her slow balances, but this time, she’s holding Uchizono’s head in her hands; Uchizono, bent low, travels along in baby steps. That’s how their voyage ends.

longing two is the kind of enigma that doesn’t really tantalize you to decipher it. Perhaps because it resonates with glimpses of things that—at some deep, disquieting level—you think you understand.

Christopher Williams (choreographer, dancer, puppeteer) reads a lot—plunging into a heady mélange of myth and folklore, wallowing in languages, and then trying to organize into dances the trove that he has surfaced with. Of the three works of his that I’ve seen, two, Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins and The Golden Legend, are a series of entrancing solo vignettes, and The Portuguese Suite is, well, a suite. But his new Hen’s Teeth, I believe, is trying to convey a story. So too, on a more modest scale, is the work-in-progress, Gobbledegook, that opened his Dance New Amsterdam program. But this postmodern polymath has apparently skipped Narrative 101, which mitigates the delights to be found in these works. A fabulist needs surer grounding.

Hristoula Harakas and Donna Uchizono in Uchizono's "longing two"
Photo by Paula Court
Hristoula Harakas and Donna Uchizono in Uchizono's "longing two"
Adam H. Weinert and Eikazu Nakamure in Christopher Williams¹s
Photo by Florence Baratay
Adam H. Weinert and Eikazu Nakamure in Christopher Williams¹s "Gobbledegook."


Donna Uchizonoís longing two
Baryshikov Arts Center and the Kitchen
June 1 through 5

Christopher Williams
Dance New Amsterdam
June 3 through 6

Talk about enigmas! The title Gobbledegook may refer to the gibberish (or severely manipulated language) in David Griffin’s sound score, which, at one point, makes me imagine a conversation among Donald Duck, a child, and a basso profundo. What you hear is strangely at odds with what you see. The initial vision is of a naked young man (Adam H. Weinert), his slim, pale body gleaming whitely in Amanda K. Ringger’s lighting. He’s floored, ungainly—thrashing desperately against a black panel. A despairing wraith that William Blake might have painted.

Another man (Eikazu Nakamura), wearing a long black skirt ingeniously trimmed in red (by Carol Binion), stands with his back to us, gradually sidestepping toward Weinert. The lights change, which must mean something. Weinert yells, Nakamura grabs him. Everything goes dark.

Williams credits his performers as choreographic collaborators, and Nakamura’s solo draws on what appears to be the latter’s background in martial arts and/or Kabuki. Nakamura is remarkable, and by his shifting gaze, his sudden freezes, and his lunging, crouching, vaulting steps, he conveys an atmosphere in which possibly malign forces lurk. Griffin supports this with calamitous sounds. Nakamura re-appears after a blackout and dances in a straw sheath, which he lays out on the floor. The solo seems to go on for a very long time, and you almost forget that pale, flailing ghost. Surely we should keep him in mind somehow, if this is supposed to embody, at least in part, an “imaginary version” of a Buddhist ritual to ease “the suffering of the wandering dead” (although the press material says this, the program offers no explanation). Finally Nakamura calls, jumps, and snaps his fingers six times, and Weinert appears and stands over him in what seems like a very out-of-character semi-balletic attitude that detracts somewhat from the poetic ending in which Nakamura backs up, carrying Weinert cradled in his arms.

Hen’s Teeth has a more complicated story to tell. And Williams is fortunate to have it accompanied by Gregory Spears’s splendid score, played live by an ensemble of 10. This Requiem Mass unconventionally blends portions of the Latin text with that of a non-liturgical one in Middle French about the song of a dying swan (a metaphor for the lover), plus a couple of fragments in Breton. At times the jangling together of singing voices, violin, harp, recorder, chimes, and electric organ is magical, like feathers stroking the back of your neck.

Feathers are a big item. Six women with small, erratically placed wings (costumes by Andy Jordan) slowly balance on one leg in various ways in dappled light. Here’s one of Williams’s quite entrancing images: Bit by bit, the women bear their breasts by pulling at one another’s skimpy, raggy vests with their teeth (downer: They have to make a quick exit to discard the clothes). When Weinert enters in folklore-ballet attire (red tights, full-sleeved white blouse, blue vest, and nice little boots), his face registers an understandably elated “Look what I encountered in the forest!”

This is no Swan Lake, however teasing the references appear. The young man has to stop his ears when the bird-women start wailing and warbling, but in one pleasing sequence (which, again, goes on a little too long), they fly him and the one he likes best (Storme Sundberg), wheeling them through a playful courtship around, over, and beneath each other. But suddenly the singers embark on the “Agnus Dei,” after which the music begins to jolt, and the stage to seethe with comings and goings and falls.

One woman (Jennifer Lafferty) is still prone when three gnome-like crones appear, growling and yelling. Wearing tattered gray clothes, their bald heads fringed with woolly gray locks and bushy beards covering their mouths, they act like scavengers, a bit giddy at times, despite their long, scary, blue-tipped fingernails. They seem frightened when Lafferty stretches up her arms and struggles to her feet. I later learn that they represent the three Graeae of Greek myth (luckily Williams didn’t try to show us that they shared a single eye and a single tooth; erudition has its limits). I’m at sea, though, as to what they’re doing here and how they relate to the “Kyrie” (its words thoughtfully translated in the program); “Eternal rest grant them, O Lord. . .” (Wait a minute. What or who is being laid to rest now? Our fantasies?)

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