BWW Review: Excavating the Complexities of Collaboration in Joanna Kotze's 'Find Yourself Here' at Baryshnikov Arts Center

BWW Review: Excavating the Complexities of Collaboration in Joanna Kotze's 'Find Yourself Here' at Baryshnikov Arts Center

Collaborations in Dance often operate on the following formula: Choreographer and designated visual, film and/or sound artist decide to collaborate. They meet, they discuss, they agree on a concept, they work independently for several months. The resulting piece is a dance with supported sound and visuals , and we don't see collaboration. It becomes just about the dance, not about crossing disciplines or being inspired by one another. This disconnect is symptomatic of an increasingly insular and bland dance community.

If this disconnect is the status quo, then choreographer Joanna Kotze's "Find Yourself Here" at Baryshnikov Arts Center is an act of rebellion.

"Find Yourself Here" is the climactic result of several shorter collaborations between Kotze and five other performers and designers. Visual artists Jonathan Allen, Zachary Fabri and Atsuko Goto along with Mrs. Kotze and dancers Stuart Singer and Netta Yerushalmy created a densely layered arcade of interdisciplinary ideas, resulting in a work that is 100% collaborative (The ultimate art for art sake).

The audience enters the Howard Gilman performance space at BAC to hundreds of pastel colored squares of tile clustered like a scrabble game board. These tiles are arranged and rearranged by the performers. Their actions are planned, systematic and (almost maniacally) purposeful.

Suddenly, uniform and order are disrupted: Mr. Fabri steers from the pack, skimming across the stage in cartoon like shuffles, his shoes digging audibly into the floor and face buried below his curled elbows. This is the loco motor action that acts as the through line for this immensely restless dance. The rearranging continues, and so do Mr. Fabri's bursts until he is alone. The tiles are now in three neat little stacks upstage. We begin to hear kudos of encouragement backstage:

"Yeah! come on, you can do it! go Nick!" yell the other five performers from behind the audience in earnest.

Fabri's movement becomes explosive and erratic; the lights close in as the tension mounts. Then silence. A wash of light and the distant sound of quick marching is heard from off stage. No more voices. The performers enter in succession with the same cartoon like shuffling. The piece has begun.

"Find Yourself Here" delights in the uniqueness of bodies. Ms. Yerushalmy's bound and athletic frame is complemented by Mr. Allens compactness. Fabri and Singer match each other in sensuality, and Goto and Kotze possess the same restraint and serenity. The visual artists are parallel characters who mirror the dancers; in fact, the whole dance seems like a delightful tango between the performers and their onstage alter egos.

Ms. Kotze's commitment to the inherently strangeness of movement as it relates to space and sound is tremendously endearing. The phrase work is architectural, but what sets her apart is her knack for choreographing humans. With choreography so clear and simplistic, it's easy to come across cold, but Kotze and her fellow performers are strange, varied, and vulnerable. We, the audience, are invited to see the rigor and hear the exhaustion (Mr. Singers heavy breathing towards the end of his many relentless and percussive solos is practically worked into Ryan Seatons live sound score).

Repetition makes for an appropriate ending. Mr. Allen, with the same ceremonial care as in the beginning tile motif, chugs across the stage, individually picking up little glass squares from a mound of disparate materials returning to his own neat little pile of squares to place his newest find. He repeats, and repeats, and repeats- physically clear and mentally uncertain.

BWW Review: Excavating the Complexities of Collaboration in Joanna Kotze's 'Find Yourself Here' at Baryshnikov Arts Center

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From This Author Brendan Drake

Brendan Drake is a Brooklyn based freelance choreographer, dancer and occasional writer. He creates work under the umbrella of his group Brendan Drake Choreography which (read more...)

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