BWW Reviews: ZviDance Takes on Escher, Bacon and Rothko at NYLA
There is something electric that happens when an audience is completely captivated by a performer. It is a momentary love affair onstage that, at least for the audience, lingers long after the curtain closes. Friday at New York Live Arts reintroduced audiences to the virtuosity and individuality that sets Zvi Gotheiner's company apart from many of his contemporaries. The company presented their newest work, "Escher/Bacon/Rothko," inspired by the work of visual artists M.C Escher, Frances Bacon and Mark Rothko
The night is broken into three sections sharply marking each artist. Each section is a standalone dance in itself, unique in costume and score. Section one had the dancers in form fitting patchwork black and white costumes executing quick and complicated piece meal duets that mimicked Echer's infamous images of never-ending staircases. Like the artist's work, the dancers seemed to defy logic and gravity, although the material became convoluted at times.
Section two went solely to the men of ZviDance, who took on the deformities and sexual innuendo of Frances Bacon's work. They manipulated their facial expressions as if their jaws were about to unhinge. Then, in a peculiar striptease, they ripped off their formal wear of ties and slacks, revealing grey matching unitards underneath.
Bacon's pictorial subjects are often depicted as isolated figures in steel cages, or glass, as if already hung in a museum. Gotheiner successfully achieved this effect towards the end, with four of the dancers fashioning one long string forming a diagonal cube, trapping dancer David Norsworthy in the middle as he broke down into the final crouching position. He is the pariah of this odd quintet---and the star.
The third and last section: an ode to Mark Rothko seemed the most far removed choreographically. There was an essence of spiritual harmony in the movement that Rothko certainly emphasized in his work, but it lacked the exciting vivacity of creating something real from emotion. That being said, this was the only section with the full company, and it was nice to see all eight of them together.
At the end of the day, this performance went to the dancers, all 8 of which deserved their moment in the spotlight. Gothainer allowed us to fall in love with their individuality. I fell in love with Alex Biegelson's balancing act between virile partner and earnest vulnerability. I also loved Kuan Chew's care and intelligence with every step. For Chew, It is as if each twist, turn and jump of choreography came with a story.
It is clear this work was made as a true collaboration. Yes, there is a vocabulary that seems native to Gotheiner, where his dancers are comfortable in his movement to the point where the choreography seemed to be something inside them all along. However, I wanted more. I wanted to see more of Allison Clancy and Kuan Chew. How wonderful would it have been to see their interpretations of Bacon's grotesque beauty? I also wanted more of Robert Valdez Jr's easiness and maturity.
In a work that focuses largely on the visual, Zvidance is successful. However, with this particular triptych of dances, I had to ask myself, "now what?" All three artists that were the catalyst for this work were controversial in their careers, and in their personal lives: Escher was a WWII exile, Bacon was openly gay at a time when such things were illegal, and Rothko committed suicide. What would it have been like if the inner demons of these artists manifested more in the choreography?
Perhaps the dance isn't over?