Performing Arts: Dance
December 20, 2016
The Joyce celebrated fifty-three years of Lucinda Childs choreography with a two-part retrospective. Program A surveyed Childs’ development from the quirky solos of the sixties through the seventies’ rigorous studies in additive process, into her softer, though just as diligent, commissions of today. Program B, however, contained only her magnum opus, Dance. A supergroup collaboration with Philip Glass, and Sol LeWitt, a pinch of everything in Program A is synthesized in this mental and physical marathon of a performative and choreographic endeavor.

Dance Ispends twenty minutes laying out one sideways traveling phrase in four accumulating branches. Childs keeps elemental sparseness unwaveringly engaging via subtle shifting of how many people enter from which side, and how long before more pummels in. Dance II, a solo, develops surgically, inserting movements in a sturdy spatial pattern of forward, backward, and ménage. Dance III spatially resituates the same material into a kaleidoscopic grid. Each commences after music and video start, but ceases together without so much as a goodbye.

Childs’ movement language is essentialist, devoid of affect. Stripping ballet to runs, turns, pivots, hops, and leaps, she nevertheless maintains authorship of the vocabulary in her spatial exposition, her art truly being directional patterning, intelligible only through such a bare, though conveniently beautiful, lexicon. Epitomized in Dance III, events in their simplest form involve an A and B person. In multiplying couples, ratios increase complexity, reworked into a new simplest form where four dancers rotate roles in a cycle of two simultaneous variations layered amid a traveling phrase while one waits patiently for his/her turn. Once established, partners shuffle, such that an A and another A become a new A and B, and the process continues.

Projected over is Sol LeWitt’s film of the original 1979 cast. It sidetracks from synchronous wide shots with still images, close-ups, birds-eye views, pans, split-screens, and double exposures. For Dance II, LeWitt tranposes Childs’ spatial strictures, projecting a side perspective perpendicularly as well as a frontal one that shifts axis along the horizon against the centered Caitlin Scranton. His filmic counterpoint avoids the spatial inverse of what is danced, generating insistently forward visual motion.

Additionally From LeWitt is Dance’s humanity. The original cast’s fixed temporality among new generations connotes shadows, ghosts, memories, and superegos. It measures development of company fluency – projected dancers in sneakers don balletic port de bras and epaulement while onstage a more honed unmannered delivery is danced in white jazz shoes. Ms. Childs herself is a colossus in Dance II while Scranton frolics in her heart center. While Scranton maintains a fierce focus, 1979 Childs consistently averts her gaze upon approaching LeWitt’s lens. The contrast is heartbreaking – the valiant spirit within the bashful giant.

Dance and film meet in musical juncture – Philip Glass’s fluttering score of keyboards, winds, and soprano, from which Childs physicalizes rhythmic structures over notes with direction over movement. Against asymmetrical metres are sneaky weight shifts that come out the other end in sync. As such, movement becomes another instrument in consort with sound and image as a composite composition of pure abstraction across media. Compared to Childs’ silent pieces that achieve developmental extremity, choreography, fully aware of its formal possibility, is tamed to try its hand at companionship.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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