Once upon a time, you could apply adjectives like “sensual,” even “voluptuous,” to Wally Cardona’s dancing, although there was always a tigerish tenseness in it. As his movement style has become more intriguingly original, it has also gotten more unyielding—enigmatic and single-minded at the same time. He and the members of his quartet often swing their arms as if the shoulder were the only joint in them; their legs, too, appear more often straight than bent. Intense, articulate of limb, the dancers are always aware of one another, but seldom connect physically. It’s startling when, in the second section of the new Him, There, Them, Matthew Winheld lays his head in Kathryn Sanders’s lap and, a few feet away, Joanna Kotze copies his move without a lap to receive her.
The set involves different arrangements of white cubes on white strips of flooring and—for “Him” and “There”—patches of fake grass. “Him” is intermittently accompanied by the powerful unison snare-drumming of seven young uniformed marching-band members. For “There,” pianist Cameron Grant sparingly deconstructs Brahms amid long silences, eventually battling Romulo Gaitan’s “Recorded Music Mix,” which takes over for “Them.” The cool atmosphere, abetted by Roderick Murray’s lighting, is often one of waiting: for a sound to fall into the quiet, for someone to move.
Cardona is severe, almost stoic in his opening solo, staring forward as he essays different balances and restricted actions on and around the cubes—using one leg as an oar, leaning slowly until he topples. In one strange outburst, his fists rage, but his body cringes. It’s as if, within this limited arena, he’s fulfilling set tasks. When the others join him for “There,” they give the impression of being out of touch with the notion of community and the point of their “jobs.” They jitter, totter, fall, and twitch; they swing their arms relentlessly, shuffle along stiff-legged, execute spraddled hops and stamps, and pair up briefly. Bending over, they scrub at the grass with the backs of their hands. Their faces remain determinedly neutral, intensifying the robotic aspect of some of the steps.
In “Them,” a duet for Cardona and Sanders, the score at times makes you think a song is about to burst out, but it never does. And the dance is a little like that too. There are more curves in this part, but the two are alone together, making gestures that involve their own bodies. It’s a surprise when they briefly fit into unison. While he dances, dropping into somehow aghast falls, she stands, hands folded. This disturbing, oddly beautiful world isn’t one I want to live in, but maybe I already do.
DD Dorvillier has been collaborating with actor-playwright Peter Jacobs since 1996, often deconstructing familiar narratives in bizarre and arresting ways. Coming Out of the Night With Names is less of an intelligible whole than even the wildest of her previous pieces—perhaps because the first part is a play (written and directed by Jacobs) and the second is a dance (choreographed by Dorvillier). The members of Human Future Dance Corps—Dorvillier, Jacobs, Oren Bar-noy, and Heather Kravas—go right from one into the other, as does the music by Kenta Nagai (fretless guitar) and Michelle Nagai (electronics).
To begin, Kravas noisily sets up a table, and the performers gather for a rapid-fire colloquy in energetic monotones about the doings of people whose names we know—from downtown dancers to movie stars (Sophia Loren’s been spotted going into a 7-Eleven to buy a soft drink, clad only in underwear). And about the power of names. The “director” has gone missing, leaving a little white basket full of purple confetti. As Coming Out progresses over the next hour, I yearn with increasing impatience for that director, or rather for an outside eye—someone to tighten up the messy, desultory passages and tell the performers that if they’re going to deliver everything they say in loud, all-on-one-note voices at top speed, they need to articulate a little more fastidiously.
Their talk is absurdist. Indignant non sequiturs bounce off the walls. Repetitions abound. Phrases are bandied about. There are allusions to politics, boats, suicide, dreams, names, springtime, Dracula. At one point they behave as if in a spooky place. “The wounded cat sleeps on the rosewood chair” is said several times. And once, something like “Are we spiritual beings or just a flavor of meat?” They talk about sex a lot. They move tables. A lot. The flood of verbiage continues while all four are discovered naked within the brightly lit backstage bathroom, sitting on the toilet or brushing their teeth.
Dorvillier’s choreography also involves a lot of table business: Kravas alternates shuffling around—hunched over a bit, holding her hands like paws—and shoving tables with her belly. Dorvillier puts her pants on while holding a table on her back, But they also move through formal patterns in Dorvillier’s interestingly awkward, sometimes numb style. Kravas spins while the others reiterate a minimally progressing walk in which their feet step around each other. Sometimes they all look as if they’re twisting in the wind. Everything just happens. Two fists, thumbs out, become horns. Kravas’s kicking, punching fit of a solo infects them all. There may be a logic to the evening’s illogic. I wish I had an inkling.