When I was a teenage babysitter, I used to struggle to stay awake. It was my job. Parents were paying me to keep their kids safe. Sleeping was an admission of failure.
Now I’m a dance critic, and I still struggle to stay awake. It’s my job. The paper pays me to watch the kids work, and report back. But when a performance at La Mama’s Club begins 15 minutes after the announced 10 p.m. start time, and the lights never quite come all the way up, and the title is inscrutable, and almost every interesting movement phrase aborts before it develops, the instinct to shut down and snooze becomes very strong.
Julian Barnett’s Dub a Hole in the Ground has a cast of six, three women (Lesley Kennedy, Sharon Estacio, and Jocelyn Tobias) in sundresses over trousers, and three men (Barnett, Aaron Walter, and Mario Eusebio—the last of whom, apparently a prisoner, does a lot of talking, his uncredited verbiage overwrought and distracting). Evan Scharfeld’s electronic score, heavily percussive, sucks a lot of energy out of the room.
The choreography—what Barnett and lighting designer Amanda Ringger let us see of it—is sometimes quite arresting, as the cast splays against the back wall, lit to resemble a fence. Are they in a dungeon? Are they all prisoners? They lift and toss one another, run around in a circle, flail and flap, enter and leave along a side runway. The dancers, all strong, don’t have nearly enough to do. Here’s hoping Barnett keeps working on this, opens it up, figures out what it means, and shares.