Curated and co-produced by Morgan Refakis and Meagan Woods, Your Move Dance Festival just finished its seventh year of presenting excellent work, this time at the gorgeous landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City. I took the PATH train from Manhattan to review the closing night performance. My review highlights what I considered the three most dynamic performances.
A one-man-band soloist and choreographer - who mixes his own music, commissions original curated video art, creates video game montages, records monologues, and controls his own lighting with the flick of a switch - Joe Monteleone is the rare control freak who can do it all and come out with a dazzlingly realized project. He performs his hyper-limber and symbol based choreography with dime-stopping precision while cleaving through the air with whip-snap limbs that suddenly slow down just enough to make sure that one gets the point.
In excerpts from Meditations on a Meta 0rganism, Monteleone began his blistering performance in front of the closed stage curtains of Loews theatre lit by a flood light that painted him in gorgeous cast shadows as he turned to and from its source. His movement progressions added context in its repetitions as if he were slowly decoding a puzzle with his limbs. Flicking off the flood light cued the curtain to peel back and blanket him in projections that led us further down the rabbit hole of his mind. These projections created a labyrinth of his repeated images as he moved horizontally back and forth across the demarcated screen. It was as if he was caught between two worlds: the digital and the physical. In one startling moment he began to run along the pathway of a projected video-game road to infinity before breaking away to watch an accelerated video montage of patterned lights. During this sequence one could finally hear and understand the monologues that Monteleone had been speaking. Though the words were always the same, only now could we could hear their meaning. As with all of this man's work, there is so much more going on than can be conveyed in a single review. Suffice it to say, Meditations... is a major breakthrough.
Even when well done, body manipulating by any other name is still body manipulation, and Ashley Zimmerman's body was manipulated to an operatic degree in Rebecca McCormac’s Surface & Skin. Zimmerman’s fellow dancers were skillful in their partnering from low-bearing lifts to somersaulting ascents that flew her through the air as if she were a levitating caterpillar. The body folds that came out of it were equally impressive to behold but again, what does manipulating a dancer's body amount to except for more manipulation? Especially when there is no context. Movement for movement’s sake is fine but the end effect from Surface... was that of a circus trick. In this context, it went on for far too long until carrying over into a well done solo that retraced the manipulations Zimmerman had writ in the sky, only this time on her own two feet.
Zimmerman is a powerful mover, capable of making vertiginous shifts that would reduce a lesser creature to mush. Though this showing was only an excerpt, if given the choice I would have taken Zimmerman’s solo performance over the group marionette session or given the non soloists something better to do besides stand around after they were done being used.
Normally given to creating brooding works of antiseptic sexual alienation, interwoven shadow finds Robert Mark Burke at his most romantic. It's a good fit for him. For every turn that Monica Gonzalez makes, Jared McAboy turns in opposition, only for both to reverse gears and flip back together through space-devouring tours before landing apart to consider the state of things. That state is up to the viewer to decide. These two could be arguing over starting a family, where to spend Thanksgiving, or trying to decide whether or not they will stick it out. Whatever the case, they are in love and Burke has done a fantastic job of re-purposing the archetypal love duet into something full of subtext and visceral meaning. Select a pas de deux from any ballet and more than likely it looks like bad ballroom dancing. Burke’s duet is a toiling pit of emotions that feels entirely new.
The range of styles Burke uses in constructing interwoven's story runs the gamut from Merce Cunningham's stylings to release based technique in turns to crisp batterie and ronde de jambes en tournant. The dancers frequently flick their feet backwards in the manner of tango dancers or dogs digging up old dirt, excavating formerly buried bones to pick anew. In their ever-swirling movement Gonzalez and McAboy are marvelous to the point of being definitive. Though I would love to see this duet on other companies, I think these two have set an indelible mark. Neither is overwrought or too casual; they are just right. Honest in the manner of people who have stayed too long in the pit of love to leave each other, because everything about them is tangled in knots. My only grievance is its ending: is Gonzalez really subservient to McAboy in that final pose? You'll have to decide for yourself.
Refakis and Woods worked with Art House Productions to present this edition of Your Move Festival. Too often one wonders whether or not all the hard work that goes towards putting on a concert is worth it. Young ladies, it was worth it. I look forward to reviewing again next year.