On its face, Keely Garfield’s choreography looks like a lot of tumbling around, with little direct relationship to the music accompanying it. On her face, Garfield often wears a deadpan expression, with eyes downcast.
But the more you watch her duets with Rachel Lynch-John, the more certain clues accrue, and you realize you’re seeing variations on a theme: what happens when a dippy woman tries to parent an adolescent almost as tall as she is. Their confrontations are face-to-face, their jostling the struggle of equals, their plot the awkwardness of a child required to nurture her own mother.
That’s what seems to be going on in the 1990 Fable and in last year’s My Mother Was a Four-Alarm Fire. The work’s irony lies in the way the movement contradicts the sentiments in the sappy songs: as “You Don’t Own Me” blares from the sound system, Garfield matter-of-factly knots her dress to Lynch-John’s. These interdependencies are also the subtext in Minor Repairs Necessary, a big new dance that allows all kinds of wild formations, including an antic chorus line. The performers surf one another’s bodies, sliding in and out of laps like restless children, balancing precariously. Wonderful Larry Goldhuber, quite transformed by a beard and hair after years of billiard-ball smoothness, partners Garfield in a style reminiscent of Orthodox Jewish weddings, connected by a handkerchief or in a decorous embrace. She’s barefoot; he’s in work boots. They call to mind Orpheus and Eurydice; he turns around to check that she’s still there, and I keep expecting one of them to disappear. Under the dance’s lighthearted surface pulses a delicate violence, a sense of impending disaster that requires of everyone a riveting attention. They watch one another. We watch them. We come away changed.
Repairs has live accompaniment by the Transparent Quartet, playing saxophonist Phillip Johnston’s collage compositions, through which echo strains of pop and patriotic tunes. Susanne Poulin’s gelatinous golden light bathes the dancers, and colored washes demarcate the sections in Mother. Liz Prince’s costumes, as always, delight.