3rd of October 2012


Music has traditionally provided the sea upon which to set dance steps afloat – according to, I think, George Balanchine or someone equally noteworthy.  In her new “Danza Permanente,” performed at the Kitchen, September 26-30, DD Dorvillier appropriates none other than Ludwig von Beethoven’s String Quartet #15 in A Minor, Op. 132, “Heiliger Dankgesang” (Song of Holy Praise), as the ocean, on which to set sail.  But when the music is that auspicious, and you can’t even hear it during the dance, you can’t help feeling that you’re being swindled somehow.  

l-r: Naiara Mendioroz, Walter Dundervill, Nuno Bizarro, Fabian Barba

The dance painstakingly translates the rhythm and structure of the score, note for note, into movement.  For the duration of the first movement, Assai sostentuto, the conceit is fascinating.  The game of tracing the musical lines becomes a kind of game; we note the instrumental interplay, assiduously embodied by Naiara Mendioroz and Fabian Barba as the voices of the violins, Nuno Bizarro as that of the viola, and Walter Dundervill, the violincello.  

Occasionally, one of the dancers counts off a vocal “one, two.”  The dancing largely comprises prancing footwork below with torso tilts above with shaped arms that stretch overhead or tilt the trunk from side to side like pump handles.  It’s intriguing for its short 15-minute duration.

But when we reach the second movement, Allegro ma non tanto, we’ve got the conceit, and it seems time for more than literal translation.  The rhythm continues to rule, but since the accompaniment we actually hear is an arrhythmic, atmospheric soundscape by electronic harpist Zeena Parkins, there is room for – and we begin to expect – some further elaboration on the textural quality of the dancing, on the expressive intention of the music, its presumptive emotional connotations.  

l-r: Dundervill, Barba, Bizarro, Mendioroz

As the earnest dancers begin to perspire, we note how sweat patterns darken the dress shirts and runners’ shorts costumer Michelle Arnet has fitted them with.  The woman, Mendioroz, wears a muted tangerine color, her partner violin, tall, youthful looking, Ecuadorian Barba has a magenta shade.  The viola, elegant, ramrod-erect Bizarro from Portugal, is in bright goldenrod, and powerfully intense Dundervill, the cello, is in a copen blue.

The dancers rarely touch each other – save for one swooping lift of Mendioroz by her three partners.  And they look at each other only when their eyes accidentally meet – except for one brisk passage where Bizarro repeatedly swings his arms overhead with a flourish, each time focusing on a different person.  Most notably, Dundervill invests every phrase with an intensity of focus and commitment that breathes vibrancy into it; whether or not the choreographer has told him her version of what his intention should be, his vivid presence tells its own compelling story. 

To her credit, Dorvillier endeavors to pursue provocative intellectual propositions in creating her dances, and to judge by the warm reception of her audience, her rendering of this concept captured their interest.  But Dorvillier’s diligent exercise in musical mimickry looks like the first draft of a multi-layered treatment of the concept that craves further exploration.  It’s the scaffolding, on which to build a fully formed being that hasn’t yet found its poeticism. 

photos by Paula Court

(c) Gus Solomons jr, 2012

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