Ivy Baldwin, DD Dorvillier, and Alain Buffard Explore the Art World, Technology, and the Exposed Body

Peggy Guggenheim, strange eroticism, and a little Goethe for you

If you didn’t happen to see a press release (or dance-world tweets) before taking in Ivy Baldwin’s fabulously enigmatic Here Rests Peggy at the Chocolate Factory, you mightn’t know that the Peggy in question is Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979)—art collector, sponsor of painters, museum founder, and champion sleep-around. Nor might you detect the influence on Here Rests Peggyof German Expressionist films and the crash of waves on the Ligurian shore, near which Baldwin recently had a Bogliasco Fellowship. And, you know, I’m not sure that matters.

A year or so ago, I compared Baldwin to a hunter-gatherer, foraging for provocative imagery to nourish her highly individual creative impulses. That’s still true. Her bent is for deconstructing and combining elements to build bizarrely entrancing new realities that don’t necessarily make spectators any wiser about her sources. If you’re listening from some parallel universe, Peggy Guggenheim, this is not all about you.

Ivy Baldwin and Lawrence Casella in Baldwin’s Here Rests Peggy (Eleanor Smith in background)
Yi-Chun Wu
Ivy Baldwin and Lawrence Casella in Baldwin’s Here Rests Peggy (Eleanor Smith in background)
Alain Buffard’s Les inconsolés
Yi-Chun Wu
Alain Buffard’s Les inconsolés

Details

Ivy Baldwin Dance
The Chocolate Factory
5-49 49th Avenue, Long Island City
718-482-7069
chocolatefactorytheater.org
October 20 through 30
DD Dorvillier/human future dance corps
Danspace at Saint Marks Church
October 21 through 23
Alain Buffard
Dance Theater Workshop
October 21 through 23

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Baldwin gives us art—a delicate, vaguely Abstract Expressionist painting by Anna Schuleit that fills the Chocolate Factory’s far wall. She gives us born-to-wealth-and-privilege: She, Eleanor Smith, and Katie Workum wear glamorous, diversely cut black cocktail dresses, and Lawrence Casella’s outfit includes an arty vest with the tips of peacock feathers trimming the back hem (costumes by Walter Dundervill). All four sometimes mince on tiptoe, as if wearing high heels, and on occasion hold their hands daintily—perhaps they’ve had a recent manicure. Baldwin may be combining kinky sex and the demands that needy artists make when Casella kneels on her ribcage and bounces a bit, while she breathlessly orders him to “Get off!” Smith and Casella slap each other around a bit. You can imagine both Guggenheim’s louche life and her connoisseurship when all four performers come close together and blink rapidly, as if they’re listening to one another’s bodies with their eyes. Waves crashing? Perhaps that and more when Casella and Workum, gripping each other uncomfortably tightly, race in circles, periodically smashing into the art-work wall. Or when Baldwin whips the full, shiny skirt of her dress until it makes whooshing sounds.

Enough speculative interpretation, but you get my point. Baldwin and the other performers (all given credit as choreographic collaborators) are extremely interesting. What they show you is an odd, conniving little group of people who observe one another closely and easily become obsessive about things (such as tossing their heads until their hair blurs). They gallop around and do big, scooping, sweeping dancing and windmill their arms furiously, but also strike heroic, profiled poses. Justin Jones weaves appropriately eclectic, often-disguised musical tidbits into his sound design (17, including ones by Henry Mancini, Paul McCartney, and Igor Stravinsky).

Two events stand out. Workum, her back to the audience, delivers an indecipherable speech to the other three in a very high squeaky voice. They stare uneasily, even laugh a bit; afterward, she’s sad and gracious. She thrusts her arms up; they copy her, then wilt and try again. At the very end, Workum—first sitting, then standing, caught by a sudden momentary blackout of Chloë Z. Brown’s highly effective lighting—begins to alternate, in a small, but clear, almost-singing voice, “I disappear” and “I reappear,” rising and sinking as she does so.

Whatever you think this fascinating piece is about—or not about—this is a strangely wrenching moment.


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In all her works, DD Dorvillier probes the nature of interpretation and perception, whether by dissecting narrative or dispensing with it altogether. No Change or “freedom is a psycho-kinetic skill” (her Danspace revival of a remarkable 2005 work) doesn’t monkey with our viewing habits as much as her 2007 Nottthing is Importttant did at the Kitchen, but it does assault our views of space, order, and chaos and prompts visceral responses to the challenging, often witty concatenation of sights and sounds that Dorvillier wizards up.

The audience, seated along one of Saint Marks’ walls, is confronted by a black-and-white world that seems both orderly and disorderly. A small black sandbag weighting down nothing sits in the middle of it. Two mic stands, a soundboard, and a light board trail black electric cords that snake over the white floor in front of a white “wall.” Up on the altar platform or just in front of it, things are a bit messier (a ladder, a piano, a very large lamp on the order of Hollywood klieg lights, etc.). We have plenty of time to take this in, since Dorvillier lies on her side with her back to us for several minutes, while Elizabeth Ward, in the workaday attire of a black hoodie and jeans, goes to the soundboard and disconnects the iPod that’s been providing a low hum. Then she too lies down, and we wait some more.

The prevailing atmosphere of No Change is one of exploration and testing hypotheses. Once on her feet, Dorvillier embarks on surveying the space and the objects in it as fodder for experiment, adjusting to their nature, design, and the challenges they present. At one point, she lies on the floor at the feet of the first row of spectators, holding up a foot with one hand and trying to see if, by stretching her other arm across herself, she can touch a small lamp. Much later, she lashes a cord to make a mic that’s suspended above the ladder smack the board anchored behind it.

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