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Talk Amongst Yourselves

Sally Silvers & Dancers 25th Anniversary Season
Performance Space 122
New York, NY
November 17-20, 2005

by Lisa Rinehart
copyright ©2005 by Lisa Rinehart

Sally Silvers has said of her work, "I am in love with the body as an instrument of visible thought and imagination," and her dances reflect the unevenness of a lightly edited conversation on those topics. Her women gyrate, tip toe, collapse to the floor, stare at the audience, and stomp across the stage with a purposeful vigor that's one part intimidating to two parts ingratiating. And although there's some predictability in the "look at the passionate woman flinging herself around" rawness, the dances contain much that's delicate, humorous and remarkably structured.

"Wearable," a improvisational collaboration between Silvers, Pooh Kaye, Wilkes and vocal musician Shelley Hirsch was tolerable only as a public reunion of old friends. (Kaye and Silvers have worked together repeatedly since 1982 and Wilkes danced nine seasons with Silvers beginning in 1986). The women rolled and rustled about in paper sculptures created by Anne Katrin Grotepass as Hirsch growled, whispered and tittered bits of sentences into a highly amplified microphone. Enough said.

"RUPT," created for six Sarah Lawrence dance students in 2005, was far more interesting. Described in the program as "taking its cue from a handbook of mental aberrations from the 1950's," Silvers' dance suggests such aberrations primarily afflicted young women who didn't conform to the feminine ideal of the time and who's difficulties may have stemmed more from being told something was wrong with them than from any clinical illness. She sets up an image where one woman badgers another by yelling diagnostic questions such as "which way is right?" and "where do you live?" as they move across the stage in a two-dimensional frieze resembling an Egyptian tomb painting. The woman questioned gets progressively more agitated until she can only answer "I don't know, I don't know." Silvers revisits variations of this moment and captures what must have been the torment of having one's sanity questioned in an insane environment. Fittingly, the dancers perform Silvers' convulsive and intentionally awkward movement in pastel capri pants and demure blouses suggesting innocence coupled with dangerously repressed sexuality. With a sound collage of scraping noises and songs, "RUPT" is haunting as a danced approximation of a dark age in the treatment of mental illness.

The newest piece on the program, "Puppy Skills," is a vague reworking of various solos into a group dance for Paige Martin, Vicky Shick, Julie Atlas Muz, Manon Ramirez, and Jamie Di Mare. Fortunately for Silvers, these engaging dancers elevate "Puppy Skills" from collegiate competence to downtown hip with the sheer force of their collective personalities. It's not that Silvers' movement is dull or derivative, but the dance's patchwork arrangement somehow eviscerates it of its power.

The evening also featured two solos, "Flap" danced by Carolyn Hall and "Oven Rack" danced by Silvers, which illustrate why Silvers has been around long enough to be celebrating a 25th anniversary. Hall is superb in "Flap," giving Silvers' big deliberate movement an elegance that conjures up the beguiling mystery of 1920's silent movie star Theda Bara. With a film of ragged black and white visual static behind her, Hall smolders while pushing Silvers' movement to the extreme. Her casually executed deep squats make one's knees pop in sympathy and impossibly long, angular lunges somehow look effortless. Silvers brings a different sort of effortlessness to "Oven Rack," gliding from one emotional extreme to the next with impassioned ease. Her interpretations of Iris DeMent's soulful country songs are funny and heartfelt and her performance radiates a mature warmth that feels as though it could embrace a world of contradictions. She's clearly enjoying her private conversation and one's always grateful for a humane and witty voice.          

Volume 3, No. 43
November 21, 2005

copyright ©2005
Lisa Rinehart



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last updated on November 21, 2005