In the New York dance world, August means rest—very little happens on the familiar stages. But you can sample a number of outdoor performances, as well as the New York Downtown Dance Festival, and some presentations in the sprawling Fringe Festival. So the Joyce Theater’s presentation of four choreographers in early August came as a well-timed surprise. It’s a disservice to categorize the four as young and female, because no matter their age or gender, they produced engaging work that surely garnered new fans. Two companies were paired on two different programs; I caught a matinee with segments by all four.
Kate Weare’s Bright Land featured live bluegrass music onstage, played crisply by The Crooked Jades. The band’s presence combined with the evening-out costumes worn by the four dancers to create a special occasion social setting. The dancers worked in pairs, dropping little bomblets of movement punctuated with a spearing raised leg, and paused to spool the next phrase. The sense of drama was heightened when two dancers watched the others and clapped aggressively as if goading them on, and when one pointed accusingly at the others.
Camille Brown loves gravity, as her ten dancers proved in City of Rain. Dressed in blue and brown costumes evocative of Star Trek, they bent their knees deeply as energy surged up and down their torsos. It didn’t seem to matter to them whether they were standing or lying, they always had a firm sense of foundation and preparedness. Brown creates intriguing, dense patterns with very physical movement that seems to define the comfortable limits of what today’s performers should be capable of doing. And which they clearly relish doing.
Gallim Dance, and guest dancers from Ballett Bern, performed Andrea Miller’s Wonderland. It was inspired by the artwork of Cai Guo-Qiang, evident in the bold theatricality and striking tableaux, but it hit a crazy range of emotional notes. Jose Solis designed the intriguing costumes—seafoam green, pieced tops and briefs and headgear with strategic holes to allow protruding tufts of hair. In its several sections, the powerful, grounded movement shifted in mood from absurdist exercise, to vaudeville, to a cutting portrait of a rock star and a groupie. The effectiveness of this particular storyline was clear from the rapt attention paid by the audience.
It was hard to imagine what would constitute a “closer” of a dance after three impressive works. But an excerpt of Monica Bill Barnes’ Another Parade fit the bill. Four women sported clothes as armor—pleated skirts and thick turtleneck sweaters that they pulled off one shoulder to let loose. Loaded gestures, like fist pumps, hip swivels, and expressions, primal, or of exasperation or boredom so common in conversation, were performed rapid-fire to a mix of songs. The sum total was a manic, delightful, precisely calibrated concatenation of gut feelings and intellectual winks. If you missed this run, try to catch all of these promising choreographers’ upcoming engagements, where and whenever they may be.
Image: Gallim Dance in Wonderland. Photo by Christopher Duggan.