writers on dancing


Absolute Value

Ali Kenner
Absolute Value
Joyce Soho
New York, NY
October 21-24, 2004

By Nancy Dalva
copyright © 2004 by Nancy Dalva

Ali Kenner gave her first evening length concert last week in the pristine white box that is the Joyce Soho. Her opening solo called “Cyclical” (2003) and her new quartet called “Absolute Value” were thoughtful, and seemingly mood-driven, though with no specific story lines. The first transpired to the live caterwauls of Erica Glyn, a singer-guitarist whose lyrics seemed to be illustrated by the movement. The general impression was of female angst, which was unfortunate, given Miss Kenner’s gift for telling gestures that could be literate, and even witty, if they weren’t in such a worried context—for instance, the use of a hitchhiker’s thumb, the circling of an ample behind in a pair of white hip-huggers, and the tracing of a thumb down a vein. This last of course isn’t witty, it’s chilling and interesting, or could be. But the music and dance were very much of a piece. If the music struck you as Bonnie Raitt manqué to the max, the movement wouldn’t have made up for it.

“Absolute Value” is a dance for two couples, but the personnel shift. Miss Kenner is joined by Toby Billowitz, Storme Sundberg (whose program note, I cannot resist noting, says she “wants to levitate when she grows up,” and that she is “stalked by birds”), and Mark Thrapp—thus there are two men, two women. The women wear ugly dresses in mauve and purple, and the men wear something bland. The score, which I believe could be classified as electronic—at any rate it was performed on a laptop computer—was by Morgan Packard. His music had some mood, and some suggestiveness, and some found soundness, lending the couplings a sort of Swedish atmosphere. As the dancers partnered each other, and lay on the floor in repose, and re-partnered, I felt I was watching a foreign movie without subtitles. Something was going on for sure, but exactly what?

Ali Kenner has an impulse towards the emotional, and towards illustrating the specifics of emotion, but not towards overt plot. (The established choreographer she most reminds me of is Doug Varone.) It was difficult to determine whether a great deal of technical aptitude underlay the clean, but not sharp, movement, and it was difficult to distinguish among the varying tempi. For although one could discern that some steps were faster than others, the differentiation was not meaningful, the overall effect being of a general temporal lassitude more vexing than soothing to the viewer. The choreographer and her companions in dance appear to have all the time in the world to resolve their relationships. World enough, and time: what luxuries! Even if they did make life seem long, and art seem short, you had to wish the foursome well, and hope things would work out.
Volume 2, No. 40
October 25, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Nancy Dalva


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last updated on October 25, 2004