Gallim Dance & Sidra Bell at DTW
This was my second taste of Andrea Miller’s choreography, and the first time I left feeling pretty ambivalent about it. With her second piece under my belt, I feel a bit more confident in admitting that although there are some things she’s clearly gifted at, choreographically her work just doesn’t quite come together in a very meaningful way.
The weaknesses are, unfortunately, on display from the very beginning of For Glenn Gould, which opens with her company in a balletic mode that they just can’t quite pull off. There were moments where the synchronization was simply sloppy looking–sloppy for professionals, yes, but sloppy nonetheless. And even then, Miller didn’t seem to have much interest in the balletic mode other than for its purely formal aesthetics, a lengthy exercise in asking us to look at graceful composition paired with the first of two recordings of Gould’s Goldberg Variations that bookend the piece–as they did the pianist’s career.
What follows quickly moves into the more familiar mode I saw Wonderland, the first piece of Miller’s I caught at the Joyce last summer. There’s some human contortionism involving a set of chairs and some odd bits where the dancers balance themselves on the bric-a-brac brought in to litter the stage (road cones, empty water cooler bottles, stacks of books), but what the piece really boils down to, despite the occasional brief pairing, is a series of intense solos that prove–again–that Miller has a real capacity for crafting extremely physical and athletic movement. Some of them were quite good, particularly those by Arika Yamada and Troy Ogilvie.
Others were less so, particularly the solo used as a filler following the initial sequence, to allow the rest of the company to drag the set pieces onstage. To an a-rhythmic song, one of the dancers performs a sort of psychic break down expressed through increasingly erratic movement phrases each of which end with the dancer casting herself across the floor. I’ve seen this done so many times that’s quickly racing to the top of my list of performance cliches I never want to see again (until, of course, someone really surprises me by making them work, which I love to see happen on the rare occasion it does), right up there with a soloist dragging him- or herself slowly across the stage to express desperation or despair, something few have added to since Balanchine choreographed it in 1929.
As for Sidra Bell’s POOL, it’s basically a futuristic-by-way-of-the-Eighties German fetish cabaret, complete with thumping Euro-disco score, black spandex-and-pleather costumes, spotlights for against-the-wall routines, and face make-up that unfortunately recalls about every poster for Black Swan. And the truth is, I kind of liked it at first. It brought a grin to my face, because it is cheesy, but Bell really does own the concept.
The problem is, I never really grasped what the concept was meant to convey, aside from the program description of “memory, dreams, and illusions as well as the line between order and disorder.” The movement vocabulary feels mainly sculptural, and although Bell plays with some interesting pairings and aims for a dynamic use of the space, it never really feels like it comes together in a meaningful fashion (basically that was the order of the night), and at 40 minutes or so, it felt a fair bit longer.