Performing Arts: Dance
May 15, 2015
The repertory of Gibney Dance Company is by no means revolutionary, yet that hardly negates the necessity of its work. Showing pieces neither formally esoteric nor ultra-specific in subject, what sets it apart from similarly unoffending small companies is simply that people show up. On Thursday night, the Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center was filled with patrons from the Sanctuary for Families, ecstatic to see bodies in motion. Gina Gibney is an ambassador for dance to the non-drop-swinging world, curating an undeniably “mainstream downtown” style, chock-full of the familiar handstands, swiping arms, and sweeping rolls that easily excite and invite lay audiences into a conversation with two sides.

Amy Miller’s Still and Still Moving begins with handholds binding Miller and Brandon Welch. They connect on single points, freezing when secondary hands sneak in. They separate, rebounding only to spiral back. Their partnering, while connected, rarely shares weight, examining how we receive attachment and attach to others.

These attachments weave together an organism with independent parts, texturing the idea. Unison breaks down into modules that relate but do not have to line up. When Welch and Miller travel as a unit, their direction and leg coordination are equal, but the size of their steps, tangle of their arms, and impact on their torsos are free to digress.

Similarly in space, it cannot be assumed that proximity means alliance, as Natsuki Arai and Javier Baca remain connected within a huddle through which they merely pass to continue their conversation. Elsewhere, the company surrounds an intimate duet, phasing out of unison with them while Miller stands off to the side, monitoring the moment’s retrograde. She isn’t truly separate; her single task reverses itself as it unfolds.

Hidden togetherness integrates each medium. Kathy Kaufman’s lighting sets a rhythmic pace that freshens consistently paced movement, while Peter Swendsen’s score of drones cues sectional changes with rhythmic ones. Change, ultimately, is the only synchronicity, branching independently from the same root.

Hilary Easton’s The Short-Cut examines shared virtues of efficiency in incongruent fields of bureaucracy and dance as equally performative. Steven Rattazzi times Miller executing a phrase. He does not count down, leaving it up to her to minimize duration. She deletes movements to finish sooner, yet it is not enough for Rattazzi, still hopeful for a more drastically reduced speed. Arai and Baca are pit against each other in a relay of efficient dancing, but with each repetition comes distortion, backfiring Rattazzi’s intentions. They, too, cut corners to reach the end, assuming destination is always goal.

Part of Gibney’s first Work by Women series, its actual meaning remains as vague as hidden togetherness or evaluated efficiency. Before the show, Ms. Gibney expressed her admiration for the generosity and innovation of women in dance, though never expressed in exclusively feminine terms. While generalities lack gravity, anything more specific often turns around to reinforce gender norms on those working to overcome them. Instead, Gibney is simply recognizing deserving work from a home-court advantage, no additional agenda necessary.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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