Ivy Baldwin’s latest work, Here Rests Peggy, refines and condenses many of the fascinating things we’ve seen previously from the choreographer. It runs through Oct 30 at the Chocolate Factory, which is a perfect sized venue for the work. While it’s interesting to know that the creation of Here Rests Peggy was inspired by Baldwin’s residency in Italy, German Expressionist film, and the life of Peggy Guggenheim, it is possible to enjoy the piece knowing none of this. Yet the notes of old world formality and displaced drama connote an enticing exotic world performed pitch-perfectly by Baldwin, Katie Workum, Lawrence Cassell, and Eleanor Smith.
Anna Schuleit’s painting is the backdrop—a gorgeous gray-grounded abstraction, with hints of human limbs—lit beautifully by Chloe Z. Brown. Any feeling of formality from this relatively traditional mise en scène is quickly banished as the dancers slam the wall with their palms, and crash into it with the full force of their hurled bodies. Contributing further to the air of a social occasion are Walter Dundervill’s cocktail hour costumes with surplice closings—short dresses with witty details for Baldwin, Smith, and Workum, and slacks and a peacock feather trimmed vest for Cassell. They use every inch of the brick-box theater, leaping onto the old radiators, or hanging from a lighting rod. Since there are no wings, they simply curl up on the floor to go “offstage.” Justin Jones’ sound design alternates sounds, music, and silence and hangs back just enough.
Baldwin’s works are very theatrical, and yet they are built with beams, bricks, and furnishings of dance. Her style can sometimes feel reminiscent of how children organize movement—a bit awkwardly, straightforward, running in circles for the visceral thrill of it. Then she can take the tiniest gesture and spin a scene from it, as when the dancers flutter their eyelids rapidly against one anothers’ cheeks. When Workum lifts her arms in a V and gently shimmies her shoulders, Cassell falls under her spell and responds in kind, as do the other two. Arrayed around her like kids captivated by a campfire storyteller, her back to us, Workum squeaks a private language from which we glean meaning only from the others’ faces as they play Simon Says, notably Baldwin’s hilarious elision between confusion and acquiesence. The final scene features Workum whirling her arms like a weed wacker, chanting “I reappear, I disappear,” sinking to the floor. I could’ve watched it over again right away.