DIONYSIAN Making their Boston debut, Gallim Dance investigated sexual desire, contentiousness, and loss.
You don't want to take the title of Gallim Dance's Blush too seriously — at least not if you're expecting embarrassment, shame, modesty, confusion, those textbook signifiers of someone who'd like to creep away and hide. The six dancers in this hour-long spectacle are contenders to the core. They thrust, grapple, and wrench out of every body-lock, only to get up and gird themselves for another bout. The only blushing surfaces are their skins, from the friction of contact.
Gallim Dance, making its Boston debut last weekend at the Institute of Contemporary Art courtesy of CRASHarts, is a small ensemble of over-the-top dancers (Francesca Romo, Caroline Fermin, Troy Ogilvie, Jonathan Royse Windham, Dan Walczak, and Mario Bermudez Gil). They're all splendid movers who revel in the inventive, aggressive contemporary style of their choreographer-artistic director, Andrea Miller. Blush (2009) investigates sexual desire, contentiousness, and loss. The dancers pair off in different ways, but their antagonism abates only when they come together as a tribe.
Though the dance is Dionysian in its explosive energy and its restless, often grotesque reorganization of the body, Miller forestalls chaos by laying out the choreography with formal clarity. Much of the time the three women work against the three men in oppositional unison patterns. The women — lookalikes with dark, pulled-back hair, slender bodies and delicate features — wear black leotards with low necklines and long sleeves. (Costumes are by José Solis.) The men also are similar physical types, and they wear black droopy shorts cut to look like loincloths. All the dancers wear odd black sandals that cover their ankles.
The women seem to be the aggressors, brandishing stereotypical seductive behaviors, like slinky fashion-model poses and the predatory gestures of insects and balletic swans. The men often cower on the floor or hunch into their bodies. All of them drop into defensive crouches with dukes up, then whirl out into momentary, splayed vulnerability.
An arena is marked out on the floor with tape. Vincent Vigilante's lighting periodically fades to darkness, dividing the action into scenes with different aspects, from gloomy to garish. The music careens from raucous rock to Chopin.
After a wary solo by Gil, the three women preen and promenade while the men inch along on their sides, way upstage, outside the arena. Finally they square off in rough chases and collisions. A woman throws a man down, steps up onto his back. Later she throws herself at him from a distance. He lets her drop and swing from his body as he veers into a run.
Another time — I'm not sure if it was the same couple — the man squirms out of a shriveled position on the floor, lifts the woman by the side of the head, and runs with her. Unshackled, he leaps alone, punching the air, and she creeps away — unsatisfied, it seemed to me. Men team up to toss a woman into wild swings that skim the ground.
Inexplicably, they agree on some action. They all gather to push one person at a time from one side of a tight circle to the other. In a dim light, they squat on their haunches and thud over onto their sides together. They run fast around the edge of the arena.