By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
Dundervill both designs and choreographs parallel universes that shift fluidly between the mundane and the fabulous, past and present, rehearsal and performance. Watching Destiny 1 at Dance Theater Workshop, you can imagine that some bon-bon-bright revue is unfolding in outer space, gradually merging with scenes from an adventure story whose outcome is unknown.
As the audience enters the theater, Dundervill is laying out and fidgeting with his setthree large, multi-colored, interlocking polygons, two medium-sized ones, and a number of tiny ones on little islands of their own. Some resembleor can be manipulated to resembleAlpine peaks, and theyre carted away almost immediately, to return later in various new guises.
After the 12 performers have cleared the stage, they lie supine, their heads almost meeting as the center of a circle, their legs raying out like the spokes of a wheel. Justin Luchters unearthly score begins its soft, richly textured, occasionally melodic, chiming, rumbling, and digital beeping, and the people begin rolling slowly around the ringwith each turn, repeatedly opening their legs and snapping them shut in a countdown from 10 to one.
Dundervills costume sense is outrageous. As a fashion designer, hes an outsider artist. The dancers begin and end in shiny, draped black outfits; strip down to black trunks and halter tops; and gradually re-appear in untidy, yet artful bundles of different huesmade even more candy-colored by Carrie Woodss lighting. Sometimes the swatches of fabric look tucked and tied, rather than sewn. Pieces trail behind. Although the silhouette is bulky, its also revealing; backs are bare, breasts slip out from under criss-crossed strips of cloth; buttocks poke out of flying yardage.
The nine silent dancers appear intermittently in routinesmarching in lines, facing us as if in a retro nightclub (but not compelled to display charm, even when the movement implies it). Jennifer Kjos and Penelope Margolis start a strenuous sequence of kicks and struts and turns that others join. Then all break into contrapuntal squads that lay patterns on the floor as interestingly unruly as the grid the performers later make out of colored ribbons pulled from their costumes.
If we dont fully understand the actors plot, its not for lack of repetition. Dunson, Boatright, and Lovelady deliver their conversation several times with subtle differences, usually in loud, affectless tones; they hold poses. Sometimes they recite their own stage directions. We get the gist of their mission. Theyre at a mountain resort with a thick pile of papers. They need to travel farther. Danger lies ahead. Boatright is the weak link. There may be something between the two men. In their most artificial repetition, the three recited their lines expressionlessly, holding up their hands as if to read a script; behind them, three dancers poise cardboard shapes above the seated actors heads, and the other cast members sit at their feet. Near the end, Dunson delivers one of the speeches in quiet, thoughtful realistic mode.
The stage is a carnival of stuff and saturated colors. Dundervill and a stagehand rig up and suspend a snowy peak of unbleached muslin that partly buries the three possible spies (or explorers) as if by avalanche. In an ingeniously choreographed clean-up, dancers sit in pairs, one person behind the other; the one in the rear pushes the front one along with his or her feet, and the front one acts as a broom, gathering up everything along the way.
In the end, all the bewitching clutter is gone. The black-clad dancerssome lying, some standingform group patterns like big snowflakes. Finally, only two performers are left. Benjamin Asriel and Burr Johnson slowly tumble over each other, touching their fingers and toes together to mold an array of polygonal shapes. The effect is curiously eroticas if you could be watching relics emerge from the soil, men working at intimate connections, and, at the same time, particles merging to form new entities. Their aesthetic destiny.
These days, Trajal Harrells mission and his destiny are clear. He wants to imagine what might have happened had voguing infiltrated iconoclastic Judson Dance Theater performances in 1963. Hes hot to mingle everyday movement, matter-of-fact presentation, process as performance, and queries about art with the splashy, gender-bending theatrics of voguing and the Ball competitions documented in the 1990 film Paris Is Burning. So far hes produced two "sizes" of Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church, extra-small and small. The version that lit up the Kitchen (alit on?) has an M after its name. I wouldnt, however, use the word medium to describe its impact. Devised and choreographed with three unusual and vivid French performers, the piece at times rambles and fusses around, then erupts with some fabulously theatrical image.