BWW Reviews: Beth Gill Channels Trisha Browns 'Newerk' for 'New Work'
Beth Gill pays homage to and the landscape of the American Southwest and Trisha Brown's "Newark" (1987) for her newest creation "New Work for the Desert" which made its premiere this weekend at New York Live Arts.
Already a fan of Ms. Gill's work, I arrived at the theater excited but mildly skeptical about what kind of interpretations of the southwest she had up her sleeve (Grand Canyon Imagery or Georgia O'Keefe's paintings perhaps?). Her choreography thankfully doesn't read in such obvious terms. By abstracting the themes of journey and love inside a vast landscape, Gill creates a world all her own - one that is formal and geometric, but also incredibly sincere and as boundless as the desert itself.
Thomas Dunn's lighting design suggests a passing of time. The work begins just before dawn with Jennifer Lafferty entering stage right in dark blue silhouette. Her arms are arched behind her like a cactus and her focus is strong and unwavering as she glides with ease across the expansive live arts stage. She exits into the wings and the audience sits in silence and near darkness. This was the most intriguing aspect of the night. The audience was willing to participate in the stillness - stillness that Gill bravely made the centerpiece for the first quarter of "New Work."
At this point I was puzzled but intrigued by what might come next. Lafferty re-enters stage right, this time with Marylin Maywald close behind offering a counterbalance of calm looseness. They are the first of three couples throughout the work who curiously drift in and out of one another's paths and energies.
Heather Lang and Stuart Singer are the second couple and constants to the dance. Dressed in matching black, they bookend the space as uniformed stoic creatures. They are in complete awareness of each other and every movement, even the rhythm of their breath, is executed with rigid clarity.
Kayvon Pourazar and Christiana Axelson are the third couple and introduce a different mode of partnership. Their puzzle-like partnering is energized and confident. They don't have the same sense of wonderment or engage in the same trial and error that I saw with the other couples. Rather, their confidence within this carefully crafted world suggests they are not visitors but a part of the terrain. Axelson's serenity offers support to Pourazar's audible jumps and wild-child sequential movement quality. They are the whimsical counterbalance to the other two couples' various states of struggle and that lightness of being is what closes the piece- Lang and Singer at their feet, subdued and shedding of their cold demeanor. "New Work's" ending felt abrupt but I wonder if this was the intention. For a piece that was so incredibly human, I can't help but feel it was the choreographer's goal the leave the work open ended and at a precipice. The story isn't over.