The Park Avenue Armory has become an increasingly alluring venue for performances in the past few years, as the location for events such as Lincoln Center Festival’s Die Soldaten, Ariane Mnouchkine’s Les Ephémères, and now Brennan Gerard/Ryan Kelly’s Armory Show, co-presented by Moving Theater and the Park Avenue Armory. Performed last weekend, the company of dancers and actors, plus the musicians of ICE, inhabited the ornate side halls, capacious even though minute compared to the main Armory space, and bedecked with wrought-iron candelabras and sconces. The audience sat on risers watching the action performed in between two halls; we later followed the players into another room with a small Juliet balcony. Live, close circuit video was projected onto two screens overhead, so we were able to watch live the dancers as they gamboled in the hallways of the complex.
The dance segments shifted in vocabulary enough to defy categorization. Bits of ballet, modern, street, and military were thrown into the mix. Two actors, both with French accented English (either by coincidence or on purpose) narrated the proceedings; Marlène Saldana entered the hall dramatically, swaddled decadently in yards of gold and turquoise brocade (with nothing underneath) that matched the intricately-patterned walls and ceiling. She retrieved logs to feed the fireplace (sans fire), situated beneath lifesized portraits of military leaders (and, in theory, Pina Bausch, as a later joke mentions). A group of men in shimmering, armor-like bronze tights, and later regimental jackets, danced in formations evocative of military exercises, then later lip synched and re-enacted the kitschy pop ballad Total Eclipse as clips of the original video were spliced in. This segment felt forced and out of place, breaking whatever semblance of disbelief we’d held until then.
The cast yielded a treasure in Jose Tena, just a teen but equipped with beautiful long lines, speed, and crispness of movement, not to mention a suitably child-like face, appropriate when playing a youth receiving a lecture. In the finale down the hall, he stole the show with what seemed to be his own whip-smart style of dance, peppered with street vocabulary. A solid representative of today’s youth poised to take up arms, or preferably the stage.
Photo of the performance by Michael Hart.