Dana Salisbury’s new Whoopee in the Dark (University Settlement, October 3 through 5) offered trenchant dispatches from a life of keeping eyes and mind wide open. Enlivened by the excellent Christine Bodwitch, Paul Langland, and Karrie Wood, this work may reflect on powerlessness and personal limitations—as the choreographer claims—yet it has far-reaching power. Using varying degrees of realism and surrealism, Salisbury made us see, hear, feel, and struggle to understand. In one of eight segments, she transported us to a polluted lake in India, scrambling our senses with seductive and repulsive stimuli. In others, dancers became a stuffed parka inching crablike across the floor, a spider trailing red silk, and an unforgettable, agitated camel with alien charm—all keenly observed. Langland’s solo as “Storyteller”—an innocuous-sounding role—turned into horror as we realized we were watching a deaf-mute describe witnessing acts of torture and murder. Does Salisbury identify with him as an artist challenged to use the body to speak of what she has seen?
Any cook experimenting with a dash of this and a quarter-pound of that knows the final stew won’t always make it. Ryan Kelly—not content to merely be splendid at ballet—takes that risk with his new venture, the Performance Project, juxtaposing the raw visions of diverse performing, literary, and visual artists in interesting sites. His September show at Dixon Place, Re-covering the Concrete, was most notable for the solid work of committed, highly watchable performers, some of whom also contributed to its text and music. They seemed far more audience-ready than their material. Spicy thematic ingredients—everything from lewdness and sugar cravings to an unhealthy fixation on the photo of a stranger in a “missing person” flyer—were in plentiful supply. When tossed together, they offered little beyond an overheated demonstration of obsession and acting out.