Bill Young and Colleen Thomas Throw a Strange Party

Grand Street comes to 92nd Street

Young has been quoted as saying, “I’m trying to make a dance where people don’t notice I’m making a dance.” Does that mean he’s tired of the usual practice of choreographing and presenting his work in a more traditional format? If so, that’s too bad, because I’ve loved his dances. And if he wants us to get to know his performers as individuals through the way they do what they do, his new Tensing, which opened LITup, isn’t the piece that’s going to do it. Its score, by Georgios Kontos, can make you believe that disaster, in the form of a gigantic train, is roaring and rumbling closer and closer. Nine performers move spasmodically—their condition intensified by Belcher’s imaginatively placed lights, which flicker on and off and cast long shadows. One of the lighting instruments swings around on its support to dizzying effect. In this doomy landscape, people never touch one another, yet all react to the same stimulus, either in unison or in two contrapuntal squads. They wriggle their fingers up their bodies until they can grasp their throats; they shudder as if the floor were delivering shocks, shake their heads violently, fall to the ground and scrabble along. You certainly don’t notice individuals, even though they’re very close; in this brief look at what might be the collapse of a civilization, that’s not an option.

Dudes: Nancy Bannon’s A Man of Wealth and Taste
Julie Lemberger
Dudes: Nancy Bannon’s A Man of Wealth and Taste
Keith Johnson in Colleen Thomas’s Damsel
Julie Lemberger
Keith Johnson in Colleen Thomas’s Damsel

However, if Tensing looks like a flameless apocalypse, or a prequel to it, Young’s beautiful Off (for Pedro and Ildikó)has the perfume of a beginning—whether for the two in the relationship it depicts or for Young as a choreographer. The premise and, for a long time, the guiding movement principle is that Ildikó Tóth and Osorio (he was also, in his Presenter, the be-wigged and booted star mentioned earlier) must dance close together, keeping their mouths just two or three inches apart and rarely using their hands to grasp each other. The duet—very slow and smooth at first—is terrifically erotic, and the complexity with which the performers turn, twist, lean, and slip to the floor to maintain that delicately magnetic kiss is a wonder. The music (by Morales, Simon Diaz, and Ray & Betty) reinforces the atmosphere, but the visual image predominates. That’s partly because handheld cameras project in close-up on the window shades behind the lovers the voluptuous mingling of their heads and necks, the flow of their bodies. Toward the end, the pace quickens, and the two become more teasing, more athletic. A near-kiss can be an almost-bite. Tóth and Osorio abandon the dance of the lips. He stands on her hips; she pushes him off. He walks on his knees; she comes up behind him and carefully stands on his calves; he keeps going.

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