writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, New York edition

Beauties, Crime and High Drama on the Lower East Side

Noir, A site-specific choreography
Danspace Project’s Out of Space/Site Series and Sens Co-presentation as part
of the 2004 Whitney Biennial
Noémie Lafrance
The Delancey and Essex Municipal Parking Garage
New York, NY
May 5-29, 2004

By Meital Waibsnaider
copyright © 2004 by Meital Waibsnaider
published 17 May 2004

On the escalator ride to the fifth floor of the Municipal Parking Garage to see Noémie Lafrance’s Noir, the man standing next to me winked at his partner and said, “The kids are in a separate car.” So began the voyeuristic thrill of sitting in the backseat of a stranger’s car to watch ten other strangers carry on mischievously in a dimly lit parking garage.

In between two opposing rows of about a dozen cars each, Lafrance’s cast of five couples danced, strutted and posed as 1940’s icons portrayed in films of intrigue and murder. Expertly arranged by Brooks Williams, the diverse score which made its way impressively into the parked cars included excerpts from film noir classics such as Gilda and Cape Fear, as well as the usual parking lot chatter of heels clicking, doors slamming and cars starting.

In their mysterious comings and goings that opened the show, the dancers established the ongoing sense of a plotless storyline as couples ran hand-in-hand with suspicious backward glances, a woman with a newfound suitcase ducked into a stairwell and another pointed a gun at her partner and then embraced him dramatically. Throughout these countless snippets that began to tell a story, but didn’t, the hour-long Noir set a mood that allowed the audience to indulge in images that recalled a certain time and place, but not be privy to the hearts and minds of those living there. But, how wonderfully rich and layered were the images!

At various times, the men wore industrial-khaki trench coats with matching hats, then tuxedoes and later suits, and made right-minded partners for ladies in fur coats, or black cocktail dresses and sometimes elbow-length white gloves. Like the dances, the women’s costumes were sometimes identical and at others fashioned individually—each woman embodying a distinct leading lady. The set design by Luke Hegel-Cantarella included a chandelier that seemed to appear smack in the middle of the action from out of nowhere, and large, tan window-blinds that dropped surprisingly from the ceiling and conjured beautiful scenes of heartache and morning regret.

Besides the dizzying patterns of running and walking between the length of the parked cars, portions of Lafrance’s choreography flowed like seamless figure-skating combinations mixed with glamorous ballroom dances. At various times, all ten dancers paired off to perform loosely simultaneous duets with extra-low dips, swoons and overhead lifts. At others, dancers simply stood in front a random windshield and puffed luxuriously on their cigarettes and cigars.

Towards the end of the piece, one of the male dancers shoved another into the trunk of “my” car. As the trunk opened and the inside light turned on, the identities of my fellow companions were revealed to those around me, and I quickly felt like an accomplice to the illicit affairs unfolding before me. Then I heard real cars on the real Essex Street blowing their real horns. And I headed home to wear my diamonds, sip some champagne and blow curvaceous O’s from my sterling cigarette-holder.

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 18
May 17, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Meital Waidsnaiber



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last updated on January 11, 2004