NYC and Portland, Ore., meet at Danceworks
Kelly Anderson, of Milwaukee and NYC, and Suniti Dernovsek's Portland-based bobbevy company land in Milwaukee.
We all know Kelly Anderson, a fascinating dancer-choreographer, a local girl who seems to move to New York and back every few years. Just now, she’s based in New York. We got to know Suniti Dernovsek while she worked on her BFA in dance at UWM and a little beyond her 2005 graduation. Dernovsek moved to Portland, Ore., where she and visual artist David Stein run bobbevy (with a lower-case b’s).
Anderson has traveled to Portland often to work with Dernovsek and Stein. They met more or less in the middle Friday night, when they put on a joint show at Danceworks. (Do contribute to their Indiegogo campaign to fund their travel.)
Dernovsek came with Portland dancers Philippe Bronchtein and Jessica Hightower, in excerpts from This is how we Disappear. Dernovsek choreographed. Stein designed the striking visuals, a projected 3D forest of fanciful, exotic cartoon trees, along with videographer Brian Richardson. At times, the whole forest revolved, as if we and the dancers were walking around it, or rushed toward us, as if we were running into it. In my favorite bit, tiny colorful leaves sprouted and then fell from the branches. The forest disappeared, leaving only leafy confetti blowing about the stage-spanning screen behind the dancers. The leaves swirled so as to roughly shadow the moving dancers — a captivating effect that illustrated the program quote from Louise Erdrich: “The wind will blow. The devils rise. All who celebrate shall be ghosts. And there will be nothing but eternal dancing, dust on dust, everywhere you look.”
The tall, substantial Hightower wore a pale little dress with a full skirt over bare feet and legs. Bronchtein, also barefoot, work unkempt street clothes and an improbable bushy beard (genuine, I believe, although I didn’t pull on it). He spent most of the first part of the piece in a meditation walk, tracing a rectangle around his more active partner, whose thrusts and lunges often settled into an archer’s pose. They finally got together for a long round of partnering, much of it about abruptly arrested motion. They sustained momentum and flow just long enough to plausibly jerk it to a halt. Sometimes they worked together at this, but more often blocked or restrained each other, so the dance had a combative edge. That was fine, but like the music, the dancing is repetitive and doesn’t really go anywhere. We pretty know everything it has to tell us after about 10 minutes, but it goes on far longer at about the same intensity and with only minimal development of materials.
Anderson’s sensual, neurotic The Little Things opened with Cassandra Motta (NYC, UWM 2010), sexy and supple in a silky white negligee, tossing and turning — well, writhing is more like it — on a sheet on the floor. (We saw Anderson experiment with this sort of thing in a TCD.tv video last summer.) In Jan Kellogg’s moody, chiaroscuro lighting, we can just make out Anderson, in a little dusky rose dress, seated upstage. Stage left of her, two more sheets — one spread on the floor, the other draped from the studio theater’s low ceiling, glow in another pool of light.
Motta, a splendid mover, rose from the sheet like a cobra from a charmer’s basket to David Lang’s moody, minimal cello/piano music. She built to a frenzy, but always spiraling and legato, never staccato, never strained or violent. Then, sated, she settled back to “sleep” on her sheet.
The moment she did, Mary Madsen (NYC/Paris, UWM 2003) exploded from behind the hanging sheet and crashed to the floor. This shocking entrance opened as grotesque a dance as I’ve seen. Madsen violently locked herself into a series of impossible poses, as if going into one terrible spasm after another. Horrifying — so much so that Motta “awakened” to help out. Motta drew Madsen into a duet that ever so gradually “taught” Madsen to move in Motta’s more pliant idiom. Sweet resolution came when the two settled into some lovely mirror and parallel dancing.
Motta and Madsen exited. That left Anderson, who had observed all of the above onstage from a chair. She cleared the sheets, and I assumed the dance was done. Then Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Joan Baez’s cover, I think) popped up, and Anderson launched into the most beautiful, expansive, free-and-easy solo. If she had used elements of the dances for the other two women, she would have closed the circle on a danced psychodrama of Woman Reconciling Two Aspects of Self. But no, the coda was Something Completely Different. I can’t say I get it, but I do like it.
This program will be repeated at Danceworks, 1661 N. Water St., at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16. $15 general admission, $13 students/seniors; (414) 277-8480.