LaMama Moves: Mavericks in Motion

The fifth LaMama Moves Festival is well underway, people. With over two weeks of programming, over 50 artists, and showtimes ranging from 2 to 10pm, there’s little reason to not catch something, be it The Power of Hula, a Jack Ferver curated Cabaret Evening, or a Movement Studies Research Studies Project on Improvisational Practice.  Last night, the indomitable Nicky Paraiso welcomed the audience to the Mavericks in Motion Program A (there will be B, C, and D programs too) by pointing out that we are a form with history (dig one to Alastair Macaulay) out to reclaim the co-opted nickname (dig two to John McCain).  I’m not sure the four works shown represented much dissent, but there was plenty of fascinating movement exploration to chew on.

Lionel Popkin showed an excerpted solo, with fellow UCLA faculty member Robert Een accompanying on cello and voice, of last year’s Danspace Project quartet, “There’s an Elephant in this Dance,” which Andy has already written a bit about.   After Popkin’s huge, fuzzy elephant suit falls away, he begins a compelling journey through breath, rebound, and spiraling pathways.  Standing mostly in place, with his hands in his pockets, he blows and sucks in air in increasingly more complicated rhythms. Even without original cast members Ishmael Houston-Jones, Carolyn Hall, and Peggy Piacenza Popkin and Een (and the elephant) provide a sense of communal dialogue and multiplicity.

David Capps, my colleague at Hunter College, performs in his quartet “Now Sings the Garden,” set to part of Olivier Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards su l’enfant-jesus.”  Toby Hankin joins him on two chairs, and the two veteran dancers set a mood of mature quiet before Jamie Chandler and George Hirsch, bound into the space with youthful energy.  The dance continues primarily as simultaneous duets with Hankin occasionally gazing at the younger dancers.  Her benevolent smile hints at the contemplative theme of the music into some focus. However, Capps seems most often agitated by the other couple who, in turn, never acknowledge the older dancers. This provides an interesting spatial tension while allowing me ruminations about agility, rigidity and, parenthood.

Rashaun Mitchell showed “Nocturnal Excerpts,” a work in progress duet, performed and created in collaboration with fellow Cunningham Co. member Silas Riener.  The two begin slumped against the front brick wall of La Mama’s First Floor Theater.  Riener collapses and pushes against the wall, before both dancers push away from it and explore a strong backwards pull of the head, attending to sharp, fast, jerks of the cervical spine. And, I only get anatomic here because later in the dance Riener rolls himself backwards over the top of his head and onto his face, while laying on his back, in a spinal contortion that I found (this morning in the studio) is, indeed, as unlikely to achieve as it looked. The sonic landscape by Ablehearts and the physical crumpling and contortions imbue the space with sweet violence and a kind of late-night loneliness.

Luke Gutgsell performed “Two Habits,” his sensuous duet with Elise Knudson.  He states in the program that the work is an embrace of his own movement habits.  I’d say they’re habits worth maintaining, except, perhaps for Knudson’s butt scratching…I mean, only, as a personal habit… I actually enjoyed the humor of her hiked shorts and ichy rear end in the midst of this silky dance work.  The two are well matched for the slow and seamless slides and gently persistent pushes.  I found myself thinking they could continue on forever and I’d watch; it was like a raspberry dark chocolate mousse, absolutely luscious.

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