Gibney Dance “Folding In” at Gibney Dance
Gina Gibney is a builder and a visionary. Her ability to mobilize and organize others into action is having a rippling effect on the world of dance and continues to strengthen its ties to community and action. From 890 down to 280 Broadway, her centers are offering dancers of such a wide range of practices space to meet, move and make. We all know she’s a grounded and thoughtful force for the good that dance can do in the world and for finding practical ways to keep dancers dancing. She’s a dedicated advocate for making dance relevant to a wider population with a recognized history in placing dance at the center of her own company’s work, having reached thousands of domestic violence survivors. Her Community Action training and programs offer other artists with methodologies and insight for working with these communities, as well. She offers time and real estate in support of challenging discussions and events. So, it is no surprise that her ability to organize on the mark – with great precision and expansive vision – consistently and persistently translates choreographically. It is surprising that she can find the time, considering all that she has been doing, but if, in the Company’s 25th Anniversary Year she can’t pull off changing the world and making beautiful dances, who possibly can. This weekend and next a few of her many streams of effort converge as she premieres Folding In (her first evening-length work since 2013) in her own Center. The large and flexible Studio C at 280 Broadway has been quartered – with the audience in one quadrant and the main action in another (the remaining half includes a dressing/backstage area and shin lights in an imaginative configuration from resident designer – and Hunter College Dance alumna! – Asami Morita). However, the intimate space doesn’t result in a work that feels contained despite vigorous and sweeping material. In Gibney’s hands, big things happen up against limiting frameworks.
It is apparent as Folding In unfurls, that Gibney has a great love for the compositional work of organizing bodies in space. It is a traditional work in that dancers Nigel Campbell, Brandon Welch, Devin Oshiro, Amy Miller & Kassandra Cruz dance and dance and just dance, occasionally Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music plays, sometimes there is silence. But, there is no wasted effort and very little filler. It’s worth seeing simply as a study of accomplished structuring. My Hunter College colleague David Capps often dreams of being able to dissect performance works with comp students who are working with groups for the first time. I’d call this a prime text for repeated analysis. But, Gibney’s choreographic sophistication aside, the work is also so legible because the dancers articulate every movement idea with embodied fluency and delicious proximity. It’s a special treat to be this close to such a fantastic company of artist/advocates who are also first-class dancers. It’s opera house dancing in a chamber work setting.
The work begins with all five dancers rapidly shifting through shapes, bending into their centers while mostly flat against the floor. I’m reminded of my daughter’s recent 8th-grade geometry homework with transforming shapes reflecting, translating or rotating across points on graph paper. The dancers have volume but the impression was 2-dimensional like animated stop-motion puzzle pieces tumbling into and then up along the wall where they slip and slide in a soothing, shifting sequence. Duets, solos and trios occur with Nigel and Kassandra paired well in slicing and sliding interactions, but it’s Brandon and Amy who achieve a kind of Torvill and Dean symbiosis. Twisting and expanding around each other and then sliding into unison with fluid ease. A whirlwind trio for Amy, Devin and Kassandra swirls with ferocity as the angles of fold are so many and so rapid as to achieve a curve, folding in quickly and often enough as to become a vortex.
Every morsel each dancer offers is delectable, but it is Amy Miller, Associate Artistic Director of the Company, who rises as the creme de la creme. She is the actualized physical realization of the imaginary contemporary dancer in my head when I’m free dancing around in my morning NIA classes. (Seriously). There is both extended range and razor sharp clarity in her performance, the core is strong, the distal points far-reaching and everything from head to tail is autonomous but deeply connected. I can’t keep my eyes off her when she’s onstage. During a final solo she is wisp and wraith, tossed and barely human in her shape shifting before crumpling to the floor where the other dancers, like complex origami of the finest washi paper – have assembled to rest.
Wednesday November 2 ($150 Opening Night Celebration)Th–Saturday, November 5 at 8 p.m.
Thu Nov 3 – Sat Nov 8 & Thu Nov 10–Sat Nov 12 at 8 p.m.
Sat Nov 12 also at 5 p.m.
Approximate run time: 50 minutes
Studio C at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, 280 Broadway