BWW Reviews: SHORE Sparkles at New York Live Arts
At spring, people return from the wintered isolation of their respective family nuclei and form one whole organism, made up of all the parts that sustain a community.
SHORE is the ambitious five-event macrocosm of the traditional Alaskan Yup'ik congregation of individual and communal spirits at this rawest leg of the solar round.
Emily Johnson, who conceived, choreographed and wrote SHORE, stood up to the polar cold front on the basketball court of PS11 minutes before her NY premiere. She began: "Long before this land was New York, it was Lenapehoking."
Johnson reached deeply within her core and, in a fresh bout of genuine emotion, told a creation myth of the Native land as of her own body, born of a primeval tree, musing and searching in all authenticity through her own Yup'ik heritage.
The dance began in the street with the purest form of song, one repeated note gliding through the crepuscular air. A singer led the procession slowly, as to turn the clock about face, back to the endurance of more ancient days.
The audience merged with the dance company following the original course of Minetta Creek, once part of the preindustrial landscape. Some say the creek still bubbles up along its old course at unsuspecting intersections from Chelsea to Greenwich Village.
A music box resounded lightly behind the eyes of all on the serenest of walks, moving from PS11 to NY Live Arts with eyes affixed on the urban night, transformed into the all but bygone Lenapehoking.
With thirty-five performers onstage, and two choirs accompanying three principal dancers, SHORE swept the audience away to a mythical land where the oceans are peopled by the breathing sound of waves.
Aretha Aoki danced to ecstatic, wildly evocative choreography juxtaposed against the solemn poise of Emily Johnson and Krista Langberg, who sat with intensely sorrowful faces, immobilized.
As in the agony of remembering genocide, displacement, and assimilation, Johnson and Langberg then woke to dance and catalyze the breaking of a cultural amnesia, and not only in remembrance of indigenous ecologies. SHORE poignantly shows how all share this ongoing tragedy of absence, whether by denial, forgetfulness, or manipulation.
No artist could tell the story of SHORE better than one who speaks with the body, and Johnson has proved to engage in the multidisciplinary storytelling arts masterfully, and transcendently.
Until the final note, the full Emily Johnson/Catalyst Dance Company continued singing offstage following the end of the stage performance, to send off theatregoers into the windy, spring chill with the undying warmth of a communal embrace.
Photo: Erin Westover