Performing Arts: Dance
April 7, 2016
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery unfailingly proves itself to be a space most malleable for the range of work Danspace Project presents in its sanctuary. The opening artist of its spring season, Enrico D. Wey, welcomes his audience into a living daguerreotype of an early 20th century operating theatre colored by a child in his latest work, to warring states, a useless tool. Tinted rays of light beam diagonally downward crossing a diamond of white floor bordered on all sides by four front rows before stripes of pink, yellow, and teal. At the center of this displaced alternate world, sectioned off by hoisted pink ribbon, is Wey, dark locks draped over his face – a mint-condition action figure, tantalizingly off-limits. This season, Danspace looks to understand connections traced by new generations – Wey’s setup being an apt examination.

Our aesthetic moment loves head-scratching pre-shows; Wey chooses to stand. Sitting so close for so long, our awareness widens to the tiniest responses of his bare chest to his glacial breath. His legs, unshakably rooted, and his arms, present and devoid of tension, branch from a torso wrapped in a vibrant textural tube by Oksana Meister. Standing bleeds into bending over for half an hour. As Wey hinges, his arms hold their space, rising only by virtue of his sinking spine. Legs compensate with a deeper bend to make room for downwardly circling arms. The hands approach but avoid contact twice – nearly folded in prayer in front, and almost clasped as though shackled behind.

Following this extended execution of one task is an extended repetition of another. Wey bounces to each side of his audience, rotating facings with the thoroughness of an altar boy with incense on a feast day. The tempo of this lyrical head-banging is actually quite moderate, but the energy nonetheless jolts from the preceding slowness. Borrowed from an aboriginal Taiwanese dance performed by females for the departure and return of sailing ships, Wey transcends the textbook subversiveness of cultural drag to turn a prefatory ritual into a main event – the centerpiece of a work where his body similarly holds the spatial center.

Where before his stillness was enlivened by breath, this cyclical surfing of momentum mechanically shoves air through his throat, gusts of wind and the occasional snort initially audible before pitch joins the ride, connoting laughter, weeping, and moaning into a disjunct melody punctuated by yodels. Stopping with no warning or afterthought, Wey finishes with a reprise of the slow opening as a well earned cool-down.

The task-oriented material appears externally compelled, visually assisted by Elliott Jenetopulos’ lighting. Teetering hues of green, orange, yellow and pink either comment or cue changes in physicality. It is not until we are illuminated that we see the poetic.

Discussing with curatorial fellow Jaime Shearn Coan, Wey spoke of understanding his perplexing existence as a queer Asian-American from the inside out — placing that which he knows most, his body, centrally as layers of culture spectrally spin around him. His face often obscured, Jenetopulos’s lighting intervenes as an external expression of focus from one who, despite alienation, refuses the spatial standpoint of the outsider.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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