Theater archives

Watch Out!


We worry—not quite enough—about global warming. Should we also be thinking ahead to a second Ice Age? I wondered about this while I was waiting for Brian Brooks’s again again to begin and watching what looked like an iceberg at the rear of the stage. As the piece progresses, however, other white shapes escape their black coverings, inflate, and unfurl along the floor like tongues. These objects—an installation by Anakin Koenig—not only form a landscape and glow in Burke Wilmore’s lighting; they obliquely menace the five dancers with their swellings and deflatings and, toward the end, provide each performer with a puffy sleeping place.

The title may not refer to the second-coming of a disaster. again again sums up Brooks’s aesthetic: If a movement is worth doing, it’s worth doing again. And again. And again. His take on repetition doesn’t ally him with Minimalism, nor is it mechanical. The sequences he choreographs are strenuous, redolent of effort and emotion, and he worries them like a dog with a bone, changing them in small, compelling ways. Before the dance is half over, the sweat is dripping off the fine performers (Nicholas Duran, Alexander Gish, Jo-anne Lee, Weena Pauly, and Brooks) and pasting their costumes—flesh-colored, glitter-belted fabric and net shorts and sleeveless tops by Roxana Ramseur—to their skins.

The provocative 55-minute piece is structured in modules, only some of which recur, and Tom Lopez’s atmospheric soundscore registers the beginnings and endings of these sequences with its own kind of climate changes. Several times, some dancers help others to run up the rear brick wall. Twice (once for a very long time), Duran faces Gish and gently, inquisitively manipulates him—trying over and over, and in different ways, to get one of Gish’s arms to reach high, his drooping body to remain erect. But only once do we see a fascinating activity in which a dancer pulls another from a low lunge into a crouch, slides onto, over, and off his or her back. When all engage in this at once, we see a snaking, rippling chain, or, if you like, monkeys at play in an orderly jungle land.

Intermittently, something seems to be pending, to charge the atmosphere. In a twisting solo, Duran, half obscured by one of the pulsing shapes, gazes upward and into the distance. What eventually arrive are two bulbous white objects, inflating ominously until they fill the sides of the stage and loom over the remaining area of black floor. In this limited space, Brooks and Pauly embark on a long duet. He places a hand on the floor; she steps onto it; he places another hand; she steps onto it. The journey is not only arduous; it doesn’t go anywhere. Struggling to balance on Brooks’s hands and eventually his feet, chest, back, Pauly ends up walking in circles. Finally, he crouches, and she sits on his bent shoulders, catches her breath, and surveys this altered landscape. The others have vanished. The swollen shapes begin to deflate. Blackout.

A brave new world? Maybe. Certainly these people are innocents, barely aware of the altering terrain as they work and play. Worse could be in store for them.