In a somewhat uncharacteristic bit of showmanship, Donna Uchizono and company occupy theaters at both Baryshnikov Arts Center at The Kitchen this week, through tomorrow. Longing two begins uptown, at BAC (where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, it seems), and continues as an enhanced intermission/bus ride to Chelsea, where it finishes up. The evening, a showcase of excellent collaborators, offers its share of sublime moments, if it doesn’t quite cohere into the alchemical happening that its structure hints at. But Uchizono has always charmed with whispers and sighs rather than shouts and gimmicks.
In the Howard Gilman studio space at BAC, the stage is a catwalk down the center, from which the audience, in parallel rows facing in, is walled off by a yard-high length of paper (set design by Ronnie Gensler). Thus we can really only see Anna Carapetyan and Savina Theodorou’s cameos as they undulate their arms and dip their heads, moving along the paper’s length to beachy sounds or plangent strummed guitar (by James Lo). Hristoula Harakas, facing backward, and Uchizono (performing for the first time in a decade) traverse the strip at a glacial pace, related and yet distant, until Uchizono freezes as an array of fluorescent tubes lights up and Harakas disappears. It’s one of many moments that hint at relationships near and far, journeys, and loss and mortality, without specifying anything at all. Carapetyan and Theodorou carry jugs on their heads and offer water to each of us without pouring any. This segment ends memorably with their abstracted legs waving and twining, reminiscent of synchronized swimming. Wendy Winters designed the breezy white leotards and tunics, embellished with crystals and winglets.
Before boarding the bus we’re handed paper cups, signalling that we’re about to be refreshed. Sure enough, on our bus, Heather Olson bears a jug of water which we’re certain will be poured into our waiting cups. But no, she places the jug on her head, then lifts it to her lips as she moves awkwardly down the aisle (apparently the bus driver didn’t tailor his jerky driving style to suit the choreographic endeavor at hand). Like a mirage of an oasis, we see but we can’t drink. And we are thirsty.
A length of paper encircled the stage space at The Kitchen (which commissioned the work), lit beautifully by Joe Levasseur. Carapetyan and Theodorou are already dancing as we enter, the sound of a church bell pealing, and it did feel a bit like we’d gone through a time machine. In this more traditional setting, they’re doing more traditional dance — lunging and pivoting and sweeping their arms. The other pair sits upstage. Uchizono, lying like a Mayan chac mool, drops her head back and waves her legs independent of one another, flexing and gnarling her prehensile feet. Harakas doing her specialty, extending and rotating high and freely her muscular legs, which seem to have minds of their own, as she stares at us intently, apparently unconcerned with what her legs are doing.
At this point the sound takes over, a pastiche of anxious squawks, booms, and the sound of a rousing crowd emanating from speakers overhead and underfoot. It grows in volume and reverberation until we’re shaking like a freight train is running right under us, and shuts off abruptly as a cluster of U shaped light tubes in the corner snap on and off. At some point the beach sounds shift to more ominous highway noise, with cars and trucks whooshing by. Uchizono and Harakas, after moving independently, join up and begin moving as one, nudging and leaning on each other, co-dependents. Uchizono leans on Harakas’ back, and as she slides down partway, she grimaces in pain or fear until they recede into darkness. It’s the one heavyhanded note in a micro-odyssey filled with subtle metaphors, allusions, and ghosts.