A consummate visual artist, Eun Me Ahn first creates fantastical costumes, only later designing staging and steps. Her surprises leave room for our interpretation and projection: We complete her art in our heads and may find it terribly funny, discomforting, or both. Her troupe presented two new pieces at Joyce SoHo in October, along with her celebrated Period 2. In A Lady, Ahn’s head, arms, and torso stuck out from one end of a bulging sack of cushions while a man’s bare legs protruded from the other. An ice cream bar dangled above Ahn’s face while a childlike voice recited flavors of ice cream and other sweets. This monstrously elongated character happily wriggled and giggled, a cocoon about to pop. Dying Swan‘s Mark Haim, conjuring a host of beings in his shivering white tutu and tulle train, was at once sympathetic and repellent—repellent because a grown man is not a fetus and a fetus is not a bride and a bride is not a dying swan trembling in her white tulle shroud . . . although maybe she is.
Li Chiao-Ping’s new Grafting—part of her program at Danspace Project—lasted mere minutes, but it’s a big, tough solo stuffed with defiance and movement. Surrounded by a projection screen and three bare fluorescent lights, Li’s sturdy, grounded body erupted in sharp-edged articulations within the music’s industrial rhythm. As in her other works, body parts often wrenched in opposing directions. Of course, the precise, mechanical minutiae of muscle and bone preoccupy this dancer, as in her ambitious work-in-progress with visual designer Douglas Rosenberg, Venous Flow: States of Grace—a danced memoir of recovery from a career-threatening injury. Behind their powerful images, which command respect, Li’s pieces bear a grim, ponderous energy hard to endure for a full evening.
I like all kinds of dancers, but Hope Clark—a full-blown force of nature built like an Olympic swimmer—is the kind I tend to idolize. Her new Raw.Seeds.Need., at DTW, was a feast for fans of this recent Bessie winner. The well-named Raw. involved her body’s tipsy, convulsive birthing of tiny words. Lush, sensuous Need. soared on the combined energy of Clark, Nam Holtz, and Megan Brunsvold; Audrey Kindred’s live-action video imaged the body as a monumental frame within which moving figures appeared and words emerged. In Seeds., Clark shared the spotlight with dancer Edith Stephen, honoring friendly connection and conversation—words, again, here between women of differing ages—but, unfortunately, the piece failed to hold its own as dance.
“New York on New York,” cosponsored by Danspace Project and the socially progressive Puffin Foundation, offered a sadly necessary reminder that a strong democracy needs opinionated artists. Program A’s selections, however, revealed the need for dancers commenting on sociopolitical realities to be more direct and less insular. What the downtown dance world finds cool might baffle average Joes in Jackson Heights or Harlem, the folks upon whom effective change must hinge. David Figueroa and Yoko Yamanaka Evans danced a nice-enough improv (After You), resembling a couple of subway turnstiles turned flesh. Jon Kinzel, purportedly targeting Giuliani’s excesses in Quality of Life, seemed to be a security guard flipping out from boredom. At least Richard Lee was aptly blunt as he surveyed every racist outrage from colonialism to Al Jolson’s blackface act to Diallo’s murder, but his raw Forty-One Times feels more like a chaotic head trip than a shaped statement. What are we to take away from it, besides Lee’s scattershot anger? Since Papa Mayor would deny the rest of us our sexual pleasures, Clare Maxwell’s playful, endearing Stripper (danced with Lisa Haas) was the evening’s bravest, best revenge.