In the New York dance calendar, August is the month when nothing much happens. This year, a possible exception to that rule arrived in the form of Diquis Tiquis, a Costa Rican duo much respected in their home country and in Europe but seldom seen here. Yet on the first two nights of the month, when Sandra Trejos and Alejandro Tosatti performed at the Queens Theater in the Park and the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, the law of August prevailed: Nothing much happened.
Initially, the nothing much was curiously short. Of the three works on the program, the first two lasted six minutes each. In “Enamor” (“In Love”), Trejos played a girl in love, lolling before a row of stones. Her luxuriant curls and dreamy grin made for a pretty picture; a picture would have had only slightly less action than this dance. She stood up, she played with the stones, she kissed herself. Lights out.
The second piece, “Reina de la Noche” (“Queen of the Night”), had a conscience. The theory-laden, awkwardly translated program notes referred to a homeless flower seller in San Jose. Tossati emerged shrouded in a dull blanket, which he removed to reveal a grotesque mask. Laid on the ground, the blanket proved to have a richly colorful patchwork lining—a striking effect and a serviceable if familiar metaphor for deceptive surface appearances. That, however, was the piece’s only effect. Lights out.
The final work, “Paredes de Brillo Timido” (“Shy Shining Walls”), lasted an hour, but it was chopped into at least a dozen sections. Between each section, the lights went out. Tossati and Trejos strapped themselves to wooden chairs and leaned, stonefaced. Then they reconfigured the chairs and leaned again. Every so often, Trejos indulged in a sweet smile, while the gaunt Tossati was overcome by attacks of finger wagging and silent speechifying. Gradually, Trejos’s smile grew more menacing as she tossed him about and mimed eating his heart. There was a theatrical idea there, a thin one stretched to an extreme thinness. Even minimalism needs some meat.
Through it all, the LaGuardia audience was charmingly patient. During the last piece, they clapped each and every time the lights went out—vigorously at first, then more tentatively as they realized that darkness did not signal the end, then vigorously again, as though more enthusiastic applauding might convince the performers to cease. Diquis Tiquis did not take the hint.