To title a function “Not About [Insert Subject] Dance” is a pointed bit of rhetoric. The denial implies a double taboo: the subject that the perform isn’t (but seriously is) about, and the plan, shunned in particular dance circles, that a dance could be “about” a thing.
That was accurate of Neil Greenberg’s 1994 function “Not-About-AIDS-Dance,” and it is genuine of Gerald Casel’s latest “Not About Race Dance,” which was offered in the center of the 3-week La MaMa Moves! Dance Competition. I observed three of the 7 systems showcased in the competition (it operates through May 5), and in each the stress between topic make a difference and the abstraction of dance was at issue.
The pressure was foregrounded in the work of Casel, who was born in the Philippines. “Not About Race Dance” commences with him dancing in entrance of projected text, a approach borrowed from Greenberg’s piece. “I am a brown physique dancing in a big white cube,” section of the text asserts. The rest identifies Casel’s motion tactics as derived from people of the choreographer Trisha Brown, a lineage to which he has a exclusive assert, possessing spent numerous several years in the enterprise of her disciple Stephen Petronio.
But the point he’s elevating is how a brown physique in the white cube of postmodern dance may possibly be viewed in a different way from a white body, how building a do the job “not about race” is a privilege he has been denied. From a portable speaker, we listen to TLC singing, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please adhere to the rivers and the lakes that you are made use of to.”
This operate is certainly about dancers of coloration (Casel is joined by Designs Alexander, Audrey Johnson, Karla Quintero and Cauveri Suresh) developing a area for by themselves, and observing one particular yet another. A comedian episode mocking the deracinating rigidity of college dance programs disintegrates into a limbo from which the 5 dancers escape by giving mutual affirmations (“good job,” “I noticed your spirit”). They observe 1 a different tenderly, on- and offscreen, scream punk lyrics in unison and chat about suffering and like.
A great deal of the choreography will involve going for walks and pivoting, two measures ahead, two techniques back. Often, as I viewed the dancers noodle a little bit aimlessly to ambient seems, I questioned why the white space of postmodernism was fascinating to anyone. The operate ends, superbly, on a notice of ambiguity: Johnson and Quintero crawling to the seem of a surf report.
Later in the pageant, the Colombian troupe Compañía Cuerpo de Indias introduced “Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen).” Álvaro Restrepo, the affable director of the group, spelled out the title in a lengthy preshow speech about his route in dance (which includes his very first do the job, performed at La MaMa in the 1980s). In 2008, when Compañía Cuerpo was undertaking in Tokyo, Ohno — a founder of Butoh, the dark Japanese dance-theater form — sent flowers backstage. The clearly show is a reciprocal tribute to Ohno, who died in 2010, and to Cohen, who died in 2016 (and also to the poet Federico García Lorca, an affect on equally).
This did not describe absent the oddness of the mash-up. The songs is all Cohen, typically from the afterwards, deep-voiced period of time, some of it protect variations by the likes of Nina Simone and Anohni. The dance — choreographed by Restrepo, Ricardo Bustamante and Marie France Delieuvin — isn’t Butoh, but it borrows Ohno’s predilection for cross-dressing and femme elegance. The conglomerate model is bewildering: Masked dancers, skeleton puppetry and screamed Lorca poetry meet up with maudlin acrobatics you may possibly come across on “So You Assume You Can Dance?”
The serial construction — 1 slow Cohen keep track of just after another — will make for a lengthy 90 minutes, although a recurrent figure of a person carrying a Buddha head and a Japanese enthusiast as a skirt provides a little something of a thread. Slicing by means of a reverential, funereal tone are flashes of splendor (waltzing designs, purple skirts pooling on the floor) and astonishing revelations of a sensibility that connects the business with the artists it honors. Cohen’s posthumously produced tune “Puppets” (which starts with “German puppets burned the Jews”) looks designed for this Colombian troupe channeling a Butoh founder.
“Confianza (Rely on),” conceived by the choreographer Valeria Solomonoff for her Valetango Corporation, also describes itself at the outset. Solomonoff and her 10-year-previous daughter, the self-possessed Alondra Meek, communicate in Spanish and English about the difficulty of trusting other persons. Have faith in is created into the bodyweight-sharing, guide-and-adhere to interactions of tango, the base of the company’s method.
The clearly show explores the theme in a sort of narrative. To a properly eclectic array of tracks (which features not only tango but Barbatuques and Ali Farka Touré), Solomonoff encounters Rodney Hamilton and Orlando Reyes Ibarra, equally of whom choreographed the piece with her. It does not go perfectly with Ibarra (he pushes her to the ground), she finds a harmony with Hamilton (they acquire turns covering each and every other’s eyes), she knocks Ibarra down, the 3 dance collectively and Solomonoff finishes up on your own. Meek is present all over, as if to depict Solomonoff’s susceptible inner child.
Believe in and tango go collectively, alongside with the psychological potential risks of romance, but listed here the dance language normally appears to be shackled by the storytelling. The choices of a few-man or woman tango, for 1, continue to be tantalizingly underdeveloped.
These 3 functions didn’t usually discover the balance between matter and sort, direct and implicit that means. But they all appeared at property at La MaMa, not a white cube but an institution that has constantly invited artists to experiment.
La MaMa Moves! Dance Pageant
As a result of May perhaps 5 at La MaMa Manhattan 646-430-5374, lamama.org.