Contortions and Conundrums


I didn’t last through “Les Spectacles Vivants Sample,” a trio of cross-disciplinary performances curated by Pompidou Center’s Serge Laurent (the Kitchen); I escaped midway through composer David Shea’s ear-battering electronic piece. However, Xavier Le Roy’s dance Self-Unfinished proved strangely effective, despite threatening to be a throwback to early postmodernism—glum white guy in black sneakers in a minimalist, monochromatic setting under fluorescent lights, moving unattractively and often backward at a snail’s pace. Not promising. But Le Roy—who holds a doctorate in biology—drew titters from the audience by transforming his lanky physique into heavy machinery that emitted whistles and hydraulic exhausts. He later folded himself into two headless, torsoless dance partners linked by stretchy fabric, and later still hid his head, neck, and limbs, becoming a wiggly, phallic slab of meat, a bare-naked Thanksgiving turkey on the move. This eerie contortion—surely painful to maintain, both amusing and disturbing to watch—made me long for the reemergence of Le Roy’s humanity—his true, finished self—like a drowning woman gulping for air.

Maher Benham’s Coyote Dancers (Kaye Playhouse) offered the spectacle of a slender mysticism struggling to throw off the deadweight of turgid theatricality. Among five works presented, the three world premieres were more memorable for florid costuming than for choreography with fresh vision. Invocation: The Monks involved nine Buddhist monks in silky garb, often moving with militaristic conformity. E.T. Deva presented a similarly portentous array of angels. To the Night Goddess—overheated ancient evenings by the Nile—committed the unpardonable sin of burying Krishna Das’s treasure of a voice within the excesses of the music. Enough to make me yearn for Le Roy’s less-is-more aesthetic!

Since Ice Theatre of New York (Sky Rink/Chelsea Piers) claims to transcend medal competition conventions and Ice Capades kitsch in favor of “bold, innovative” ice dancing, its programming mix, still mostly playing it safe, should push much further. I enjoyed Ann Carlson’s Part II, a low-key, witchy, dervishlike duet beautifully skated by Heather Harrington and Alyssa Stith. And I want more David Liu (his visual dissonance clears the palate) and more of sleek, outrageous Lucinda Ruh, spinning as if she’s made a devil’s deal, contorting like an easier-on-the-eyes Xavier Le Roy.
—Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Tribeca’s Flea Theater, where Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects performed Slay the Dragon through last Saturday, is as tiny as its name suggests, but Oberfelder, lighting designer Kathy Kaufmann, and an intrepid cast made the most of it, rigging a cyclorama outside the windows to create magical light and shadows, lying low on windowsills in lieu of nonexistent wing space. The 11-part work blended physical conundrums, contortions, and some swashbuckling on the part of faux princes and delicate maidens; music by Tchaikovsky, Ennio Morricone, and John Zorn seemed programmed to tell a mysterious story of courtly love and the facing down of demons. The performers (four small women—Melanie Fox, Sara Joel, Jessica Lööf, and the choreographer—and two men, David Roe and the very young Chris Hutchins, both of whom have thespian gifts) focused intently on one another. I want to see Oberfelder set this sweet piece on young students; it’s a tight study in how to pay attention.
—Elizabeth Zimmer

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