BWW Reviews: Buglisi Dance Theatre Raises Social and Political Issues at the Joyce Theatre
Buglisi Dance Theatre, a company founded and directed by former Martha Graham dancer Jacqulyn Buglisi, celebrated its 20th anniversary show this past week at the Joyce Theatre. The second evening of the show on Wednesday night, February 6th,was comprised of four of Buglisi's works and a solo, Zjawa, choreographed by guest Katarzyna Sharpetowska.
The evening's show brimmed with technically beautiful dancers, dramatic costumes and lighting. Hints of Buglisi's Martha Graham lineage were very present throughout. Another fresh aspect of this show was the intense and emotive performance the dancers provided throughout; especially founding company members Terese Capucilli and Virginie Mecene who were also Graham dancers. They both exuded performance qualities that are rare in today's dancers.
While the evening's dances were beautiful and lovely to watch, a few moments in the show brought up certain questions for me. In many of Buglisi's dances the men act as support for the women, creating beautiful sculptures of limbs and fabric. In Threshold, choreographed by Buglisi in 1991, the male dancer, Kevin Predmore, spends the entire piece lifting and manipulating the female dancer, Virginie Mecene. While this duet is extremely beautiful and touching, towards the end of the piece I felt that I wanted to see more of Predmore's own ability. In Caravaggio Meets Hopper, choreographed in 2007, there is a moment where the men have their own section of virtuosic dance, which is strong and athletic, yet gorgeous, and leaves you wanting more. However, throughout the rest of the evening the only time the men appeared was with the entire company on stage or when lifting the female dancers'. While the lifts are beautiful and add presence, I can't help but wonder why such talented and technical male dancers are used for the sole purpose of lifting the female dancers.
Another question raised for me was the connection between dance and social issues brought up in Buglisi's new work, Butterflies and Demons, which began with Buglisi's collaboration with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and was dedicated to her cousin's daughter who was "kidnapped and burned alive." According to the program, human trafficking is now the third largest growing criminal business in the world, and while I think that this dance came from Buglisi's personal place of interest I found myself wondering if choreographers have to take a stance on social issues if they choose to create a dance about them.
Watching this dance, I found myself feeling utterly detached from the issue that Buglisi was trying to illustrate. If I hadn't read the excerpt in the program I wouldn't have known that this piece was about human trafficking. It could have been about many things: the current struggle with the economy, gender equality, war, rape, etc. The dance itself was confusing: the dancers wore pedestrian clothing; the men chased the women as they ran away and were repeatedly caught. For the latter section of the piece, the entire cast was on stage twisting and writhing together in a struggle against- I'm not sure what.
In the end I felt a void. If Buglisi was going to create a dance about a social and political issue, I wished she would have made a stronger statement. I felt that creating a dance where the message pivots around the horror of human trafficking was very redundant. Was her point to simply bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking or is it perhaps that the art form of dance can only strike so many chords? While it is my belief that human trafficking is a relevant issue in today's political, economic, and social platform, Butterflies and Demons just wasn't the right dance to articulate it.