writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, New York edition

The Most of It

I sat down on the bank the grass was damp a little then I found my shoes wet
Kimberly Bartosik
Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
June 24, 2004

by Nancy Dalva
copyright © 2004 by Nancy  Dalva
published June 28, 2004

After a week of overwrought, tricky visuals—Eifman at New York City Ballet, Pilobolus at the Joyce—what a relief Kimberly Bartosik's new piece was. Subliminally narrative, but not oppressively so, despite a worrisome title. A trio, but for the most part given over to two exceptional dancers, Derry Swan and Daniel Squire. Mostly, just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful dancing, in a beautiful space. What more could one want?

Both Swan and Squire are current members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, she via Barnard, he via the Rambert School. (If you had ever needed a dance company to function as a think tank, Cunningham's would have been a good choice, at any moment in its 50 years. As e.e. cummings said, "Art is intelligence functioning at intuitional velocity.")

Swan is the Queen of the Lunge, a lush, womanly mover who is astonishingly fleet footed. Cunningham's solo for her in Fluid Canvas (2002) elucidated this just as Balachine summed up Merrill Ashley in Ballo de la Regina.) She also has amazing powers of stillness, which held her in good stead here. Among the lovely sequences Bartosik devised for her were a traveling lunge, with arms extended to the sides like wings. It recalled, if from a different point of view and traveling rather than stationary, a wonderful episode in Cunningham's Enter (1992), originally danced by Michael Cole, who happened to be in Bartosik's audience. Standing to the left of the stage (if memory serves, Bartosik was on the other side, in a row of girls, at the time), he balanced on one bent leg, and, like a raptor, he flew, his arms like great predator's wings.

Squire has the technical mastery his background would suggest, allied with a rare transparency. You feel that whatever emotions he is experiencing—and you sense that he is someone who feels a great deal—are used in the dance to give the movement truth, and color, but all in service to the choreography. To see him is to know that dance, with plot or not, is never abstract. He is an excellent partner, ardent, focused, and with nothing in the least pretend about his interaction.

Together, then, Swan and Squire are ravishing. Their one long duet in the doorway of the sanctuary was precise yet plush, deliberate but appearing capable, at any second, of dissolving into abandonment. Brainy, but hot. Bartosik was their spritely foil, somehow there and not there, another Cunningham trick. In this case, you felt she was somehow making the work up as it transpired, not in the sense of it being improvisational–far from it–but in the sense of her evoking the movement. Her part was the smallest, but she presided.

The bird-boned choreographer spent nine fleet eventful years with Cunningham, during which she was notable for aerial occupation achieved without equipment, though she could be languorous if called for, in a spare way. Here, only one brief yet thrilling jump (so like her romantic leap in Cunningham's Ocean) across the stage, to be caught mid-air by Squire, hinted at her history. Her piece opened with Bartosik up in the balcony, the rose window of the Danspace home, St Mark's Church in the Bowery behind her. The audience was seated on the altar end, some on white benches set on astroturf, a summery touch enhanced by the soundscore of crickets and the simple white costumes. The upstairs appearance was an introduction, and also an invocation. It never hurts to call on the muse.

Despite the correspondences to Cunningham, the resemblance to his work was not conceptual at all, but merely in how people moved. Bartosik must have some story for her piece, given its title: I sat down on the bank the grass was damp a little then I found my shoes wet. The lighting, by Roderick Murray, gave a sense of the dancers moving from place to place, but nothing specific. Because the theater was very hot, one thought of a house at night, with the sleepless inhabitants leaving their beds for a breath of air, or to feel the cool of the floor on their feet. You could also simply see the work as an exercise in connection, as Bartosik used the sides of the space, and the back, stretching out the space between the dancers yet maintaining their equilibrium. In this respect, no matter who had the focus, or who was moving or who was still, the work was entirely a trio.

It isn't true that you can give wonderful dancers anything to do and they will look good. But you can give them just enough, and they will make the most of it.

Photo of Kimberly Bartosik and dancers by Barron Rachman.

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 24
June 28, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Nancy Dalva



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