Mei Yamanaka and Laurel Snyder at the Tank

Mei Yamanaka's "newspaper and me" at DTW's Fresh Tracks. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.

By Jeremy Finch

The Tank announced this week that, after two and a half years in it’s current space on 45th Street, it will be forced to find a new, more affordable home. According to the announcement, they will stay in the current space through May 31st and then hopefully find a long term (5-10 year) location in which to continue their free-form programming. It was with that new development in mind that I figured I should head over to The Tank on a rainy Thursday evening to see a split bill of dance featuring works by Mei Yamanaka and Laurel Snyder.

Mei Yamanaka presented a new permutation of her piece ○△□, which I had seen before (and has been reviewed here on Culturebot) as part of DTW’s Fresh Tracks. While her showing at The Tank explored a similar movement style and featured the same enigmatic mass of crumpled newspaper, ○△□ became a duet instead of a solo and the smaller, black-box setting gave her piece a much more intimate feel. Due to my slight tardiness coming to the show, (I arrived just as her piece was beginning), I didn’t see Malcolm Low hiding motionless under the huge pile of newspaper. Roughly ten minutes into the performance, after a solo of Yamanaka’s incredibly fluid and controlled combination ballet/popping movement, Low rustled the papers and emerged, quite to my surprise.

I never really got over that initial shock as Low and Yamanaka continued to dance together and I found myself thinking about the rules regarding truth and audience manipulation when presenting live work. Because I thought I had seen the same piece before and because The Tank didn’t offer programs for the show, what I assumed was going to be a solo abruptly changed into a duet half way through. While the surprise obviously wasn’t intentional in this piece, it caught me off guard and reengaged me in a way that rarely happens when I’m watching something I’ve seen before. Perhaps this sort of additional performer “ambush” is frowned upon in live dance and theater, but it really changed the way I saw the piece and made me think about the potential it brings to manipulating audience expectations.

Laurel Snyder presented three short pieces in her part, a gorgeous solo of her own, bookended by a duet and trio. The duet and trio both explored what seemed like themes of awkwardness and repressed frustration between people. The first section, a satire on sexual euphemisms (the Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait – the Whisper Song” was read in dead pan) ended up making me more uncomfortable than engaged. Her performers were incredibly talented, in both the acting and dancing moments (Hannah Darrah stood out with a special sort of magnetism and poise), but their dancing was much more interesting to me than what they were saying. The real highlight of Snyder’s section, however, was her solo to Etta James’ “Waiting for Charlie”. Powerful, spiral-y and lyrical, she filled The Tank with energy unlike any other performer in the evening and provided a much-needed breath of fresh air. Let’s hope that The Tank finds a new and happy home soon so that these sort of evening experiments can continue to happen.

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