Extremities

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  July 15, 2009

For an hour the dance tosses you between half-realized but powerful spasms of desire and pursuit, seduction and mockery, attack, suffocation, and passivity, in no particular order and with no particulars about cause and effect. Sometimes there's weird, Japanese-sounding pop music — manic rock with what could be loud bleats from an ambulance mixed in, a mournful child-woman's voice singing about rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes there's Chopin.

Powdery smudges appeared on the floor, possibly a butoh-like white make-up that had rubbed off the dancers. I noticed alarming red blotches on the dancers' skin, maybe from the rough contact they were having with each other and the floor, and I watched to see whether the blotches would subside.

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BLUSH: The dancers in Andrea Miller’s new piece seem to exist in a state of constant rage.
Two men kept snatching a woman and holding her in vertiginous lifts. A woman launched provocative moves at a cowering man. People dragged limp partners across the floor. Women stood facing away from the audience and snapped into perfect fifth position, then tipped forward, drawing your eyes to buttocks rimmed with tiny black tights. Two men played endless awkward games, wrangled in one-sided embraces, ran while clamping their heads together. There seemed to be no rest or release for any of it.

Dance without end, dance for its own sake, but relieved of sexual tension, was one foundation stone of postmodern dance. At Bard College, Lucinda Childs revived Dance, her 1979 collaboration with Philip Glass and filmmaker and painter Sol LeWitt. By the end of the '70s, Childs, the most pristine of the postmoderns, was adding theatrical elements — lighting, projections — to her stepping-pivoting-leaping dances. Dance was a visual spectacle without dramatic implications. It was stunning to see it again in a time when you can hardly encounter two minutes of dancing that isn't wanting to rip your heart out.

Ten dancers in white, working in relays two or four at a time, cross the stage with large, rapid step patterns that match Glass's metronomic but rhythmically shifting music. They seem almost like clockwork figures, rushing forward, then turning to spring sideways, turning again, without missing a beat. There's nothing else to see, just their stepping on sneakered half-toe, the little jumps to the side, the arms swinging up with the step and across the body to help the change of direction, maybe a little hitch-step to catch a dotted musical phrase.

Suddenly, on a scrim you've forgotten was between us, they're dwarfed by a proscenium-filling film of the original dancers, and your perception goes haywire. As the dance continues, the film comes and goes, taken from different camera angles and distances. Sometimes it streams across the space above the live dancers. They grow smaller sometimes, brighter sometimes, nearer, farther away, real, not real.

In a 20-minute solo section, Childs on film duets with Caitlin Scranton. The strict horizontality is broken. Scranton steps in a big circle and down the center line toward the audience. Childs, in close-up, is young, severe, enigmatically glamorous. Then the group return, in more complicated step patterns and rhythms, but still calm, focused, contained. Instead of looking exhausted as you'd expect, they have endorphins to burn.

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Related: Review: Dance on Camera at Lincoln Center, Stuck-togetherness, Fall Dance Preview: Things are moving around town, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Boston Conservatory, Alissa Cardone,  More more >
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