BWW Reviews: Neil Greenberg Goes Back and Forward with THIS
Last weekend New York Live Arts hosted the premier of Neil Greenberg's This, a full length work taking inspiration from Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation. This is Mr. Greenberg's attempt to flesh out the complexities of meaning-making by presenting the audience with an idea, a choreographic structure or motif, and then abandoning it entirely. The randomness of the dance speaks to the transient nature or performance. In Greenberg's words "dance can be representational and often is, and often quite productively. But it doesn't have to be." Rather than justifying a concrete thesis, he creates a world of interpersonal relationships. Among the performers, there are clear relationships- not in the humanistic sense but more like living art. Ultimately, this work belongs to the dancers in one of the best ensembles I've seen on the New York stage. The tension and energy between the performers is really the hook that tethers this breezy work.
The piece opens on a bare stage divided into three sections by two cross cutting towers of lights. Omagbitse Omagbemi enters the stage. Her knowing smiles give her a maternal air as she watches over the other three dancers for the duration of the piece. Molly Lieber follows close behind. If there was a physical interpretation of postmodern dance, Ms. Lieber embodies it. Her long and strong frame takes the stage with a fearless punch. Even the simplest of phrase work radiates from her toes through the tips of her wavy tousled hair.
Mina Nishumara alternates between whimsy and veracity in her execution of Mr. Greenberg's movement (much of his phrase work is taken from hours of videotaped improvisation and replicated intact. Nishimura effectively illustrates the concept most clearly). Conner Voss is the little rascal of the group with his fast footwork and boyishly mischievous smirk, giving the impression he knows something we don't.
With This, Greenberg brings into question the levity of concept in a work by attempting to reject meaning entirely. By doing this, he is making a case for dance as a sensation based experience. This is a series of moments and instances. The dancers create a world, live in it for a little while, and then abandon it completely.
Having seen Mr. Greenberg's work multiple times it appears, at least to me, that each of his dances begin where the last one left off. His The Disco Project (1995) was a follow up to his seminal Not-About AIDS Dance (1994), and both dances acted as choreographic time capsules to his current frame of mind. This appears to act as a similar capsule. There is a nostalgic quality to the way he catalogues movement and manages to inject his own ism's (often literally) into the work. We see where he's been, but we also get a glimpse into his ideals for the future.