How comforting is this: David Neumann’s weirdly witty Sentence was partly inspired by an eight-page Donald Barthelme sentence. I can forget “understanding,” slouch in my seat at P.S.122 (where the work runs through March 2), and watch the bodies collide. Or take in the way Neumann’s movement and Will Eno’s text bounce off each other with no intention of getting acquainted. As in the excerpt from Deep Six that precedes Sentence, the same performers who drift into funky, elastic dancing also riff off awkwardness and embarrassment. Neumann approaches a mic as if it might explode. Up on a little platform, his back to us, talking disjointedly into another mic, he says, “It has to be more . . . precisely wrong” (that’s a key, folks).
These people are nervous, and suspicious of everything. Chris Yon’s eyes tend to roll sideways as if he thinks Big Brother is toting up crimes against balance. Even the security guard (Andrew Dinwiddie) who patrols the evening is inefficient and vulnerable; he’s the one who gets blinded by light. Is Stacy Dawson in disguise when she wears a wig and bleats “Woo!” from time to time, or when she doesn’t? Adrienne Truscott introduces “students” from a course she teaches called “My Melancholy Body,” and rambles frantically. My favorite line: “My husband was German. [Pause] It turned out.” Talk about missed connections.
Also among the skillfully bemused crowd are Ruthie Epstein, Karinne Keithley (especially entrancing), John Peruzzi, Michelle Rosenfield, Jenny Seastone Stern, Erin Wilson, and Robin Yost. The word sentence need not only be considered linguistically. Imprisonment in this contrary self, where mind and body wrestle? Execution? The dislocations are summed up by a soliloquizing bicycle that sits before us wishing (on tape, natch) it could talk convincingly about death, but “I’m just a red bike.” It’s black.
Sally Silvers’s new two-part Spaced Out feels like a fluid journey through intergalactic bars and the clubs of planet Earth. Nobody has three heads (although at one point Karen Sherman acquires a blue demi-carapace and Silvers a draped orange hump, courtesy of designer Elizabeth Hope Clancy), but dance customs vary. Silvers, whose piece will be repeated February 27 and 28 and March 8 and 9 at Dance Theater Workshop, doesn’t tell stories or produce dance-theater collages. Whatever her idea, she abstracts it into bold, quirky movement, arranged in curious conjunctions and performed with matter-of-fact clarity. When I think of her style, I tend to remember joints and angles and sudden compact moves, but there’s plenty of juice to it. And much wit.
Yumi Kori provides a landscape of four transparent white panels hanging between audience and performing area; these continue as white paths on the floor. Lighting designer Philip W. Sandström can turn them bewitchingly cerise and tangerine to set off the Latin music that Silvers’s collaborator Bruce Andrews is live-mixing along with assorted other sound images. Silvers suggests everything from space walks by aliens in blue visors to a “Tijuana Picnic” at which Noemí Segarra, David Thomson, Mark Robison, and Amy Lee briefly form one caterpillaring ballroom couple. Silvers’s constructions are elegant and varied, whether she’s giving us glimpses of power women making unison into solidarity, creating brief erotic tangles, or having Robison and Thomson walk on tiptoe while Segarra and Lee listen to their chests. When the music hints at Indian pop, Robison has his hands full with undulating Cynthia Fieldus, Karen Sherman, and powerhouse Julie Atlas Muz. Silvers herself is fascinating—blunt yet sensuous as, with Jamie di Mare, she journeys slowly in front of the panels, or duets erratically with Thomson. She’s one smart choreographer.
The DTW program shared by Peggy Peloquin and Amy Sue Rosen/Derek Bernstein Projects will be performed again March 1 and 2. Rosen will not be there. After struggling with cancer for years, she died on February 19, the week after the premiere of her Break/ Broke. She was 48. “Mom got a headache/Her headache grew overnight.” That’s how her poem in the program begins. She and Bernstein have three children. At the end of what seems part nightmare, part ritual to exorcise fear, and part love offering, three baby dolls descend on cords and hang there. We hear a quiet, calm dialogue. “Will you come home soon?” “No.” “When?” “Soon?” “Not soon.” “When?”
Bernstein’s visual design backs the events with a hanging curtain of straw; there’s straw on the floor too, and a sort of bicycle wheel that Thom Fogarty pedals with his hands, and a small chandelier that drops. Rosen’s devoted dancers (Fogarty, Sally Bomer, Amy Cox, Phillip Karg, Kristi Spessard, and Laura Staton) people a hallucinatory landscape. In the beginning, two white-coated women talk quietly. When Fogarty walks behind the straw curtain, his coat crackles and a cleat on one shoe adds an ominous metallic click to his progress. When he stands, though, one hand held out, Bomer crouches as if to fit the top of her head into his palm, then crawls away, hunches her shoulders, and opens her mouth in a silent scream. People butt against one another for attention, lean against one another for support. They fall. They die laughing. They scrabble through the curtain and re-emerge. They paint black marks on Fogarty, turning him into a grave demon. Midway through Rosen’s farewell work, we hear, ” ‘No,’ said Sally, ‘we will be less sad soon.’ ” Is that a promise, Amy Sue?
Peggy Peloquin’s Strategies Stabilizing is a simpler, less juicy piece than her wonderful Tender: The Nurse’s Project of 1999. But both, in different ways, consider architecture as a metaphor for the body. In the earlier work, the empty hospital corridors were redolent of death and contrasted with the bustle of dancers and real nurses. In this one, houses seem as capricious and volatile in their construction as the women (Kelly Eudailey, Barbara Gruebel or Peloquin, and Daniela Hoff) who experiment with control and the lack of it. Sometimes it’s their daring bodies that risk, but Gruebel also has a duet with a handkerchief that floats where it will. “Body my house/my horse my hound/what will I do when you are fallen,” begins the May Swenson poem that Peloquin prints in the program. And we do see—or think we do—horses frisking and dogs romping. At one point Eudailey and Hoff exit, one bent over and walking behind the other holding onto her waist, like a two-man horse without the costume.
There are some lovely visual effects. Two suspended shapes by Matt Gagnon that resemble the shells of torsos turn out to be just that, when they lower toward the end and dancers insert themselves into them. The first thing we see is Peter Richards’s video of driving down a black-and-white highway onto which drift small colored pictures of houses, holding a second before they break up. (At that moment, we hear children’s voices in C. Hyams Hart’s music for the piece.) Later a crooked, partly constructed little house is brought onstage,as well as a red box full of toy houses.
Peloquin has made a gentle, intelligent dance. I feel as if she took a cluster of ideas and images that supported the body-house/control-at-risk similarities and tensions and sprinkled them together in a way that creates a semblance of flow and connectedness. You don’t feel a strong thread binding the work, but rather enjoy the strong, sensitive women and Peloquin’s often imaginative visions.