January 21, 2017
BodyTraffic, a contemporary dance troupe based in Los Angeles, presented three dance works at the Joyce this week: two that fit into the “weird edgy” category, and a very short, light piece to Gershwin music that oddly contrasted with what came before and after.
Anton Lachky’s world premiere, “Private Games: Chapter One” began ominously, with three dancers clumped center stage in the dark, moving slowly to a blasting percussive soundtrack that quickly and abruptly changed to Haydn violins. As one dancer sliced through the air with balletic coupe jetes, the others acted in cartoonish, physically distorted ways, moving disjunctively to the classical music. A glamour girl in a long cocktail dress (played by BodyTraffic founder Lillian Barbeito) stepped forward and broke the 4th wall Pina Bausch-style by talking directly to us about her “husband,” an almost naked dancer that had been particularly bizarre in his way of moving, who physically “transformed” into a dog, pig, candle, and even an “espresso” at her command.
This uncomfortable interlude of control and submission was followed by more wild, intense movement in a quartet, punctuated by some random screaming, and a repeat of the glamor girl monologue, but this time by a man. Unfortunately, this kind of edginess for its own sake does not pack the same punch anymore, and one is left wondering whether the choreographer had a point of view on any of it, beyond in-your-face display.
After a brief pause, most of the same dancers that embodied the strange energy of the previous work reappeared in cute, neutral outfits and proceeded to dance and charm each other with Fred Astaire-like innocense. Tina Finkelman Berkett (co-founder of BodyTraffic) was featured in a sweet duet that evolved into a quartet that she eventually decided to leave behind. Artistically, perhaps the point was to give the audience a break between quirkier offerings, while showing the extreme acting range and thick artifice that the BodyTraffic dancers are capable of conjuring up.
Arthur Pita’s “Death Defying Dances” was a visually absorbing work with plenty of wry humor and kooky moments. A bright yellow lace fabric draped across the back of the stage and on the floor later reveals the words “Love Sucks” taped onto the floor, and we finally see some real connection between the dancers. Multiple moments where someone tenderly kisses another while lowering them gently to the ground, and other lovelorn vignettes, including a young pregnant girl who later reappears with her baby (doll) and abandons it in the corner, only to be picked up by another stiletto wearing, cigarette smoking gal, start to engage us beyond the impressive physicality of the dancers. The possibilities were entertaining and endless, but also somehow did not move beyond the “show” phase into the “tell.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson