Performing Arts: Dance
June 8, 2015
A small boy lies on stage in the beginning of “Snow.” Three cloaked beings approach him, and help him to stand, and chase a blue balloon. Kevin Augustine of the Lone Wolf Tribe, made such a good puppet that initially we are fooled into feeling tender towards this wooden toy. As the snow begins to fall on the dance, we watch a cycle of manipulation: a puppet animated becomes a young man wearing a thin mask who dances with friends who are also his puppeteers. The puppet is vulnerable, unsteady; he blows at a sailboat which obediently responds by sailing off stage. His human counterparts gracefully leap, only to continuously fall to the floor to rise again.

This program at The Joyce Theater choreographed by the Swedish dancer and filmmaker Pontus Lidberg featured himself, along with the marvelous dancers Kaitlyn Gilliland, Christopher Adams, and Barton Cowperthwaite. For his fans, of which he has won many with his 35 works for major dance companies and dance films (LABYRINTH WITHIN won first prize in the 2011 Dance on Camera Festival), this program,“Written on Water” presented as a prelude to “Snow,” had a dense cerebral underplay, though the dance vocabulary was limited and narrative flow disrupted.

“Written on Water,” may be a dancers’ dance with its deft lyrical partnering, by holding a neck as the one descends, a quick massage of arms stopping at the hands to pull two dancers together, sailing one another aloft in an off-kilter leap. Lidberg writes in the program that, “Much like how a conversation unfolds without conscious thinking, the response to your partner’s action is intuitive and immediate.”

Perhaps in Sweden the dance world has had less puppeteering in recent years, but in the US, we have had a feast with Basil Twist’s ingenious puppet version of the ballet “Petrushka,” Jim Henson’s puppets dancing on Sesame Street, “War Horse” with its puppets made in South Africa. All these puppets were woven into stories that involve humor, or pathos. In contrast, Lidberg’s “Snow” seems cool. Only the puppet draws our empathy; the dancers cut the emotional thread every time they make their balletic entrance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

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