DAVID NEUMANN’S “RESTLESS EYE”
March 28, 2012
You know that feeling when somebody tells a joke that you didn’t really understand, but you laugh anyways just to look like you got it? Or, when you try and sustain a conversation about an artsy foreign film even though you didn’t comprehend one word of the dialogue?
After seeing the world premiere of “Restless Eye” by David Neumann’s Advanced
Beginner Group at New York Live Arts, one might find oneself in a similarly
bewildered state. This may even be the point. In “Restless Eye” Neumann seeks to
unravel one of life’s biggest mysteries: the nature of reality and our place in the
universe. Pretty big stuff for an hour-long performance piece that melds digital
technology with movement and text.
The space is decorated sparsely: a house-like construction on the left with a door
and window through which one can see video projections, a white square rug
with four chairs in the back, and a piano covered by a white tarp on the right side of the space. As the piece begins, Andrew Dinwiddie orbits the perimeter of the space at a slow walk while the other four dancers shift around the four chairs on the rug.
Suddenly, Dinwiddie charges towards the group, busting through the tableau like an asteroid. A close call, but no direct hit; the dancers resume their original positions as Dinwiddie settles back into his orbit.
The text by Sibyl Kempson integrates the language of the lunar missions of
the sixties with stage directions by Chekhov; the narration often serves as
accompaniment for the choreography, which keeps the whole work moving
forward. Some passages are surprisingly lyrical; Kennis Hawkins and Victoria
Roberts-Wierzbowski—the two strongest movers of the group—at one point
execute a series of light jumps with the leg extended behind into turning waltz steps that are integral parts of the ballet vocabulary.
In several moments throughout the work, one dancer hooks his or her arms under another’s armpits, lifting them so that their legs appear to weightlessly float in space. Images of atoms colliding come to mind as the dancers spin into each other, struggle in a locked position and then break apart. Neumann’s signature quirkiness is never far behind. In one moment early in the piece, Hawkins balances over a supine Jeremy Olson who, seeing her foot extended over his face, rubs his head against it the same way a cat might approach a stray appendage.
Most intriguing are headsets worn by the dancers, which are able to channel the
dancers’ brain waves through software that controls the lights. In one particularly
violent section of movement in which multiple dancers wear the gizmos, the lights flash vigorously in a direct representation of the inner workings of the human mind. It’s only natural that some questions remain unanswered.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jessica Moore