A Report from the Latest Edition of The Current Sessions
Sitting in the audience at the Wild Project Monday evening, watching the nine dance or movement-based presentations that comprised the latest edition of The Current Sessions, I couldn’t get over the glaring discrepancy between the quality of performances (mostly fantastic) and the questions they were asking and approaches they were using artistically (very conservative and easy). So much great young talent, so much selling themselves short.
I don’t want to make too much of a point of it–these are anything but definitive examples of the artists’ work, since The Current Sessions is designed to give a platform to work developed in under six weeks. In other words, it exists to encourage experimentation and risk taking. But that’s exactly why I was so disappointed. I never mind seeing someone fail to achieve their ambitions–it happens all the time, it’s how you learn, and it’s so interesting to see how they they push themselves, to see where they want to go. But broad humor, easy jokes, sentimentality, comic imitations, and thematically literal interpretations of pop songs? Gets old fast.
There were, however, two big stand-outs that bucked the trend.
The first was Allison Jones‘s duet Listen to Me, performed by Hayley Jones and Amir Rappaport. I actually saw another piece by Jones a couple weeks ago at Wave Rising and was unimpressed. It felt really predictable and by-the-book. But in Listen to Me, Jones, in collaboration with her dancers, has done some extremely interesting work. The concept is pretty straight-forward–a dialogue between two women–but translated into movement, what we get is a richly developed, very personalized vocabulary, counter-pointed with more tradition movement. The contrast between the two is fascinating, the former revealing a sort of internal state, the latter suggesting the exterior. The interplay was fascinating to watch and the performances were really rich.
The other stand-out was choreographer Yin Yue, who closed the show. Part of the success you could maybe just chock up to sheer bravado: instead of a solo or duet, like every other piece (aside from the two video contributions), Yue put five dancers, including herself, onstage.
A huge part of the strength of the piece, We Have Been Here Before, was the scope of the composition. Most of the rest of the work had a passive relationship to the space, but Yue brought a draftsman-like approach to choreographing her piece, creating multiple lines and differing perspectives that largely worked in a cramped space (the Wild Project is a beautiful theater, but it’s a wee bit narrow for a lot of dance, and definitely for larger companies). While the group work was often formal without slipping into academicism, it was in the solos and other isolated moments within the choreography that Yue brought forward very personal movement touches, a couple times with a fascinating emphasis on the hands.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair for me not to call out a couple pieces. The second video piece, SARA, by Jordan Isadore, was actually very interesting, offering a clever exploration of gender and identity through performing routines like musicbox figurines. Also, Jonathan Royse Windham is a fantastic dancer. His Oh! Darlin’, a quick romp set to the Beatles that traces a guy’s relationship with his teddy bear over the course of a lifetime, was cute and definitely earned its laughs, but mostly I was just impressed with Windham himself, who demonstrates amazing power and grace as a dancer from the opening, a silhouette of him posed in an extension. It doesn’t surprise me to learn (or actually, be reminded–I think I’ve seen him before in her work) he’s a dancer with Andrea Miller’s Gallim.