BWW Review: JANE COMFORT Dances Tales of The City
A man enters the space and walks the perimeter of The Kitchen's vast stage. Soon the entire arena will be filled with seven bodies locomoting with the purposeful gait of New Yorkers. Patterns form, collisions are narrowly missed, and somehow though it is only walking, we are rapt with anticipation. Anyone who has been in a modern dance class - or spent an hour people watching for that matter - has seen this before: walking patterns are nothing new to dance. Very little of what occurs in Jane Comfort's "You are Here" strikes one as groundbreaking. If anything, the piece is a revisit to the "Tales of the City" concept that so many choreographers and film-makers enjoy exploring. Strangers in the city meet and are repulsed by each but sometimes they connect and talk. What kept June 16th's performance of this familiar trope afloat was the dynamic personality that each member of this cast of chameleons breathed into their characterizations.
Choreographically there is not much "there" there in "Here". Save for a lovely solo performed with scrumptious verve by Darrin Wright - composed of swirling rond de jambes into turns around the back and seamless dives to the floor that recovered and rebounded in one breath - the piece is composed of little that would be recognized as codified dance vocabulary. Most of what was seen - vernacular movement patched together with a few air turns, leg kicks, body isolations, and post-modern lifts - could have been performed by any dancer in the city, though the effect would have been negligible without the glamour of this particular cast. This lack of clear style did not prove problematic in terms of entertainment. What Ms. Comfort has pieced together is less a unified dance than a series of movement vignettes that could take place nowhere other than New York City. In keeping with this conceit she has collected a diverse cast of dancers who, while not devastatingly beautiful, were all peculiarly attractive. The range of height, ethnicity, style, body type, and persona represented in this cast is unlike anything one expects to encounter on a professional stage. Bravo for diversity. It certainly kept things interesting and fit the loose theme of happenings in the city.
In staging "Here", Ms. Comfort relies upon a number of multimedia effects to enhance the proceedings. At this point it falls to me to describe the stories that occurred. Unfortunately few of these stories, which tended to run long by two minutes, were noteworthy in their own right. What mattered was that while rarely innovative - even in their use of multimedia - they were all conveyed with charm and honesty. Most affecting of all was the club scene during which each participant had to impress Javier Perez's doorman with their swagger for admittance to the party. Poor Gabrielle Revlock was going nowhere fast with her lame exertion of appropriated moves. Indeed she was the only person not to make the cut. Eventually she snuck in and became the eyes of wonder that greets every visitor to New York the first time she or he sees something that is truly unique to the greatest city in the world. Joining in the festivities, Ms. Revlock slowly but surely learned to dance by participating with her fellow revelers. Though taken aback by her earnest lack of cool, no one cried foul. If anything they assuaged and led her until she was dancing with her own distinctive - though still wildly spastic - flavor. This disco dance scene eventually cleared, with Paul Hamilton and Mr. Wright closing down the party in a lovely hustle sequence before departing for a romantic tryst. We've all been there. Well, some of us have. Those who have will shiver with pleasure at the memory of this fleeting feeling. The disco night bled into morning light until we were back where we started: a walking pattern of the morning after. There is a twist to this closing scene that will strike you as either revelatory or banal. I rate it sweetly affecting. You'll have to see it and decide for yourself.
Why see this concert when you could simply spend an afternoon people watching? Because it would take 50 years of people watching to experience the collection of stories that Ms. Comfort and her cast have lovingly brought to life. "Your Are Here" while far from cutting edge and overly long by exactly ten minutes is an enjoyable romp as well as a reminder of how fun this crazy city can be. After seeing it I felt compelled to go dancing.