In a cab last Thursday at dusk—rushing between a panel at the Joyce Soho on the future of dance and the opening event of the “dancenow/NYC 2002” festival at the Firehouse Community Space—I was overcome with the passion for this town that grabs me at certain seasons, in certain lights. My last trip down lower Broadway at the magic hour happened while the neighborhood was still in the hands of the National Guard, a week after last September 11.
The attacks on the WTC cut short “dancenow” ‘s 2001 season. Grants from the New York Arts Recovery Fund and other donors have brought it back, bigger than ever. An alliance with a new not-for-profit organization, Ground Hero Kids, located the kickoff evening in a landmark 1895 firehouse. The former Engine Co. 31 at the corner of Lafayette and White is now a warren of bare spaces with cement floors; the grand renovation plan includes a state-of-the-art theater and screening room, but last week’s show unfolded as a peripatetic adventure, spectators following performers from gallery to gallery. Small works were danced in a lobby (see sidebar). Videos were screened and cake served in a back chamber.
Flirtatious waitresses dispensed cocktails, giving the entire event the ambience of a nightclub. Romy Reading wobbled about dramatically on tall Lucite spikes, in her own They Still Don’t Trust a Single Woman: atmospheric, but I never got its point.
Many works on the tightly programmed evening, advertised as all new, were in fact excerpts from pieces going back as far as Zvi Gotheiner’s 1992 Chairs. Valerie Vann seemed oddly old-fashioned as she straddled a chair in a filmy blue dress to Rachmaninoff; much of the rest of the bill was set to percussive scores. Jeffrey Kazin sparkled on point in David Parker’s 1995 Hind Legs; what looked like stumbling or flailing revealed itself to be tightly structured tap riffs. Another quiet interlude, Alexander Gish’s new Landing Gear to bits of Schubert and Beethoven, had Amber Sloan, Taryn Griggs, and Jennifer Uzzi throwing themselves into one another’s arms while providing their own lighting with flashlights—they set them up, they knocked them down. Two of the women trained their beams on a third. The trope is old in the downtown theater scene, but we don’t see it much in dance. Brian Brooks’s Dance-O-Matic, tight, robotic choreography for Jo-anne Lee, Weena Pauly, and himself, melded perfectly with the club setting. And Nicholas Leichter offered a lovely low-tech solo from Never End, to live accompaniment by Alfredo Hidrovo, that moved through an intercultural lexicon of steps and gestures. Froot and Dorfman, recycling bits of last winter’s Shtuck that have ripened nicely, played the show out with klezmer riffs on soprano sax and accordion, perfectly bittersweet. Happy New Year, everybody.