Theater archives

Eloquent Choreographer Gives the Expression ‘Tough Love’ New Meaning


Fear, hostility, loneliness, frustration, despair, numb stoicism, and frenzied hysteria wrack the five women who people Shannon Hummel’s new Elsewhere. These conditions leave them little opportunity to offer or accept love. But—and this is the crux of Hummel’s theme—they never quit trying, the hand of one reaching out tentatively, time and again, to a sister body likely to rebuff it. Hummel, who credits her dancers with collaboration on the choreography, creates this affecting world by combining instinctive, everyday postures and actions (the body’s natural “speech”) with “learned” movement (the artistic inventions of classical ballet and the major moderns). The results are enormously sophisticated on several levels, from the nuanced gradations of feeling expressed—the choreography quivers with subtle emotions, like the writing of Virginia Woolf—to stage pictures that remain beautifully calibrated whether the figures are still or running amok. Do I hear anyone suggesting a Bessie nomination?

Looking for downtown dance in easy, feel-good doses? Try a bar.

We’re all packed into Joe’s Pub, drinking (even dining) in the dark, animated conversations buzzing around us, craning our necks to ogle the tiny corner platform that serves as a stage for the cabaret show of postmodern dance. In the convivial atmosphere—given an extra charge by Sybil Bruncheon (John Burke), tonight’s gaudily clad, extravagantly spoken emcee—almost every number looks good. My faves? Naoko Kikuchi, a powerful woman doing delicate things in a solo that evokes a passionate dreaming child. Claire Porter, delivering her absurdist words-and-gestures weather report, which bubbles with erotic implication. Best of all, Gudbjorg Arnalds and Adrienne Westwood in Westwood’s take on the postmodern debutante—pretty as a picture in a vintage prom dress of powder blue, horsing around, falling down, and bouncing back as vigorously as any boy on the block. An unexpected audience participation dance contest run by Bruncheon and Neta Pulvermacher adds to our happiness.