BWW Review: Kevin Willliamson + Company's GNARLED Gives The Human Form New Meanings At The Odyssey Theatre
Kevin Williamson is known as a movement artist, and he and his company, performing three performances as part of the "Dance At The Odyssey 2019" dance festival on February 8th, 9th and 10th, has most certainly experimented extensively with the many shapes and forms of movement. Each of the three pieces presented had a true collaborative and experimental quality to them, each different in theme, and each visually spellbinding.
A strong company that has quality technique and stamina to boot, that also has the capacity to entertain and tell a story through movement, is always thrilling to watch perform.
The Emcee who introduced the evening created an enjoyable mood, that led us to "Return," the opening dance piece, giving us an idea of exploring one another, exploring letting go, rejection, holding back, caring, adjusting, reaching, denying, discovering, obsessiveness, compassion, constantly changing circumstances, connection, formations and combinations; a whirlwind of evolving emotions through movement. Intertwining all the bodies to create new forms in a fluid way. Lovely, watching the transitions occur, with some visual pictures pleasing, others not so much, aka "Gnarled."
The 11 able dancers in this first piece included Nao Aizawa, Teresa Declines, Jasmine Dideban, Maggie Doty, Paige Geissler, Nick McGhee, Kaia Makihara, Lauren Malone, Kaelie Osorio, Alexandra Rix and Keilan Stafford.
The second piece "New Friday Night," begins with a spotlight on two dancers (the rest of the stage is dark), Jasmine Jawato and Kevin Williamson, The Director/Choreographer, as we hear a very staticky radio program playing in the background spouting about social issues intermittently. The two are facing upstage for the entire number, bent over and kneeling, gyrating in unison to a reverberating beginning downbeat. They both only wear pants. Hers are some very effective eye-catching silver sparkly fringe ones. Kudos to Kelsie Vidie for their design. We never see their faces, until the very end. It is instantly sensual and captivating ~ they constantly undulate, either laying on the ground, kneeling or standing upright, contracting and releasing, rolling their hips, their heads, themselves, simulating the breast stroke, simulating sex, changing combinations rapidly, to a very groovy disco piece of music (Frances) that kicks in as the number progresses. They move in unison, although never interacting with each other. Their anonymity until the end of the piece heightened the impact their movements had on us, that built nicely to an explanation point on the reveal. By far the most effective piece of the evening. Concise, complete and demanding attention.
The final piece, "Gnarled," began with electronic scratchy high-pitched-sounds, making a dramatic impression, suspenseful sounds, utilizing the music from Gesaffelstein's "Ultra Violence."
We see two people in a very dim light, and can barely make out that they are having sex against a wall, which multiplies into two more people adding to the mix, layers upon layers, morphing into another form, somewhat like a human caterpillar, a form that is alive and on the move, writhing and climbing atop each other. Slithering, overlapping each other, progressively, creating forms we have never visualized before, but that had instant recognition in our memory banks. It was hard to discern just how many bodies contributed to the ongoing transformation of the form, almost orgy-like, and before you knew it, it had transitioned into something different altogether; a sort of a "never-let-go-of-each-other" moving portrait, that became, unfortunately, redundant after a while. It lost it's intention, but was intense, foreboding, all the same. The dancers showed no emotion on their faces, but the hard-driving, pounding music made for an uneasy feeling, as they formed a large circle, stood still, facing into each other for a few beats, and then moving over to stage left, they each started reading from pieces of paper, one at a time; short statements and declarations; their wants and needs stated aloud, and then began free-styling around themselves, spreading out on the rest of the floor. And they are getting their groove on, each in their own world. The dynamic quartet of Sebastian Hernandez, Carol McDowell, Barry Brannum and Mallory Fabian became more animated and wilder in their movements, with handstands, pantomime, using no discernible rhythm, each to their own beat, as it were.
Sarah Vaughn's "Tenderly" began playing and they broke out into pairs, seeming to, after airing their concerns out loud, begin to relate and connect with each other more freely and openly, in some unusual ways, which leads to a feeling of improvisation where they each are dancing to their own tempo, their own steps, with a feeling of stream-of-consciousness as they proceed, when they abruptly all come to a stop. Each tries to part from the group, but they keep returning and become a tight clump, until they seem to transform, glomming onto each other, truly becoming what you would call "Gnarled," wildly intertwined. They form and reform different images, where you can't really tell who's extremities are where, always moving, changing the shapes as they move. And then, silence. There is no movement for a while; fade to black, and, curtain. I admit this last piece was indeed mesmerizing, although I would like to see it again to discern more of the entire meaning of the piece.
Seventeen sturdy, versatile dancers came out and took their bows, well deserved, and the audience was really appreciative of their performances, as was I.
Photos courtesy of the Artist; Taso Papadakis; through Lucy Pollack ~