Saturday, October 01, 2005

Jennifer Muller/The Works

This time around, I saw Jennifer Muller/The WORKS at the Joyce Theater. Well this was the first time I have a seen a screen curtain used to its fullest potential-of sorts. 'Flowers' (the first piece of this performance) were shown as stills and the image changed to other flowers of moved along a close up of a still while we can see the dancers performing-very interesting. There was only one flower shown at a time and made me wonder why only one was shown at a time instead of two or a bunch? I guess not to distract from the lackluster dance. Also what annoyed me with the music/choreography was that the dance used the same tempo of the music but not the same rhythm-why? That threw me off.

This piece was in 5 movements which mostly featured the company except for #2. Now I came in about 5 minutes late after the start of movement 1 and my attention was focused mostly on the use of the screen than on the dancers-shame on me. But I got my bearings once the 2nd movement started. Number 2 featured a couple...nothing took my breath away about this one. The sloppiness of some of the lifts and trying to figure out the connection between these flower images with the choreography and music was where my mind was at.

In the end, the dancers for those various movements changed their pants which as designed, extended their fluid footwork. The costumes chosen were a nice and simple compliment to the piece.

The 3rd movement had upbeat music-again nothing special happening here.

The 4th had a slower tempo, was more relaxed with subtle sounds of rustling trees...and their pants were green.

The 5th (with red pants) had tribal beats but the movements were too fluid therefore this section of "flowers" seemed disjointed. At this point the close up of the flowers on the screen were no longer adding to the work.

The next piece was "Island". It started with a perhaps 3 minute film of horses playing on a beach then the screen disappears. The sounds of running horses and the water continue in and out throughout the performance. A dancer comes out doing several horse inspired movements like stomping their feet/hooves. More dancers come out and I notice that their pants are brown and "Aladdin" like with the extra fabric at their thighs and tighter by their legs. The music changes a few minutes into this and gone also are the horse movements-yippee. There was one part in this which used ocean sounds with upbeat beats-that woke me up a bit...

...Maybe it's my craving for a snack that's preventing me from fully enjoying this. At the beginning of the piece with the horse movements, the costume made sense. As the music changed and the dance changed, the dancers should have also changed clothes because the Aladdin pants took away from the choreography. Other than that (note the piece ended with the same dancer in the beginning doing the horse movements and then the lights were down) a thought came to mind. There are several elements to a dance performance (in no order of importance): the costume, the music, the setting (if applicable), and the choreography. So far, I see the elements not working together. They would work well is separated (ie the music played with no dance, the dancers performed with no music). That would go over better with me than how it was playing out. Again perhaps it's the craving talking. Oh, and to add to the horse garb, the horse dancers had wigs to slightly imitate a horses mane as they whipped their heads around as they stomped their feet-just thought I throw that in.

OK, now on to their last piece titled "Speeds". The dancers are dressed in all white. They wind across the stage, first walking vvvveeeerrrryyyyy slowly, then pick up the pace to a fast walk as they get to the back of the stage. The last two dancers in the line stay on the stage and begin to dance. The first piece of music sounds like a track that is playing while being fastforwarded. The second piece of music sounds like old school Nintendo video game music--oh geez....There was a piece in the middle of all this with a couple and so far (and ultimately) was the highlight of the entire show. The music was not trying to do too much and I could really get into the beauty of the piece (wow there was really potential here). I was happy for those few minutes and no longer tempted to walk out. Another couple performed to the sounds of that video game music-not much to say there.

Throughout this piece, dancers shouted the word "Change" which signaled a change in the choreography.

There was a place too where a woman wearing a sundress and sunhat walked across the stage from the back of stage right toward a spotlight at the front of stage left. She then kneeled in the direction she came from. There was no music-and she didn't move. I (and I'm sure others in the audience) thought there was something wrong with the track. There was silence and no movement for about a minute and then she casually walked off stage right...OK then.

Now granted the place wasn't sold out like other performances I've been to at during the last 3 days of its run at the Joyce (already a glimpse of the dullness to be displayed) but the applause wasn't that enthused. Perhaps some people enjoyed the performance while some others were happy it was over. I was the latter but wasn't compelled to clap at all.

Next performance to be reviewed on November 13th: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Once