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1/27/11
Sarah Michelson: Uncompromising Devotion
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Sarah Michelson

Sarah Michelson's "Devotion." Photo by Paula Court.

Sarah Michelson’s Devotion, at The Kitchen through last weekend, is the work of an imaginative dance-theater artist able to uncompromisingly realize her specific vision. This work was based on Richard Maxwell’s elegant text, with the diverse dancers (including a game pair of his New York City Players) in the roles of Jesus, Mary, Adam, Eve, though their nonverbal actions bore scant gestural implication. Sections of the monologue (recorded by Michelson) alternated with Philip Glass’ exhilarating Dance IX, and music by Pete Drungle.

Michelson’s peculiar movement respects stasis, which punctuates stiff hops, leaps, and exaggerated Cunninghammy wide pliés in a turned-out fourth position, bodies forcibly concave. There’s a lot of plain old running, mostly by Eleanor Hullihan (Eve), whose luminous visage tops a sprinter’s muscular body. She repeatedly leaps into Jim Fletcher’s (Adam) arms, flipping directions; he also spins and dips her in the far upstage corner. The beanstalk Non Griffiths (Mary), 14, must hop and land on one foot countless times while maintaining a preternatural serenity. They’re joined by Nicole Mannarino, Rebecca Warner, and James Tyson.

Michelson spun the black box theater sideways, splitting the house so that the stage occupied the right half, and we the left; a carpet moat separated us. The house entry doors were then ingeniously used as baffles for spotlights, and entrances/exits. Several meticulously painted portraits by TM Davy, along the lines of Socialist Realism or Rembrandt, were installed up high, delicately lit. Flower clusters of lighting hung (one on a pivoting axle making a scary guillotine later on); one sprouted from the floor, cheekily obstructing views of “prime” seats. (Michelson co-designed the thrilling lighting with Zack Tinkelman, as well as the costumes with James Kidd and Shaina Mote). In the latter part, as Glass’ music evokes Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, the dancers’ costume changes begin to mimic Norma Kamali’s for Tharp’s piece—black and white stripes, red socks and tank leotards. That music is so closely tied to Upper Room, that acknowledging it through costumes, and all the running, is cleverly elegiac.

On the opposite end of the modern dance spectrum is Parsons Dance, at the Joyce through Feb 6. Run to You, a suite to Steely Dan, premiered last night. It’s one of David Parsons’ finer more recent works—well-balanced varying moods and dynamics; tightly constructed, jazzy choreography; lush dancers with plenty of verve. Doesn’t hurt that the music is pretty great. It runs several more times on one of three programs with numerous old and new works.

Correction: The text was read live at each performance by Sarah Michelson, and not recorded.

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.