Review: A troupe from Los Angeles in search of a choreographic vision

Bodytraffic was founded 15 years ago by two New York dancers who had moved to Los Angeles and started commissioning choreographers they ...

Bodytraffic was founded 15 years ago by two New York dancers who had moved to Los Angeles and started commissioning choreographers they liked. In the years that followed, the troupe attracted attention and a stream of well trained and committed dancers. But these dancers need works to perform, and the ones in the program the company brought to the Joyce Theater on Tuesday are daunting. They’re the kind to send you back to program notes in the vain hope of clarification, the kind to ask you what’s wrong with contemporary dance.

“The One to Stay With” is a world premiere of Baye & Asa, a young choreographic team that is creating a buzz. This is the first piece of them that I see. It begins with three dancers huddled around a luminous bowl. Russian and Slavic music kicks in and an ensemble eats up space with a whipping motion. Tiare Keeno, aside, does some impressive solos of spastic articulation, frame by frame. The set eventually line up at the edge of the stage for a semi-martial routine and appear to attack the bowl, which becomes a strobe light and needs to be doused with water.

Are the three original dancers zany acrobats or a sinister cabal? What is Keeno’s role? What does the bowl represent? An anti-capitalist, anti-corporate program note about a company “incentivized for perpetual growth” does not help answer. And the choreography, pinned to the music and looking cool in places, doesn’t inspire much to solve it.

“(d)elusive minds”, by Fernando Hernando Magadan, goes to the other extreme: it is understandable because it is caricatural.

Guzm├ín Rosado, the company’s agile associate artistic director, sits on a chair surrounded by paper. A fleshy voice speaks to us of a writer who discovers that his characters are real, then of a woman who believes herself in the cinema. Rosado and the wife – Bodytraffic artistic director Tina Finkelman Berkett – stage and lip-sync a series of similar voice-over scenarios (lovers who lose their memories or think they’re in a TV show) in increments of a few seconds. Periodically a certain Schubert comes along and they dance and he tries to kill her.

The work is based on the true story of a man who killed his wife, thinking she was an impostor, and then spent the rest of his life writing her a letter every day. The story sounds like a case study from an Oliver Sacks book, but instead of compassion and insight, the dance gives us weak jokes. “Nothing is what it seems,” the voice keeps repeating. Unfortunately, the voice is wrong.

The most telling thing about “(d)elusive spirits” is that it wasn’t made for Bodytraffic. (It was a Production of Korzo for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 2014.) Bodytraffic executives chose him. It’s their taste.

Calling on young choreographers is a more noble undertaking. But “Snap,” another up-and-coming dance creator, Micaela Taylor, made for Bodytraffic in 2019, is also a confusing mess. It begins promisingly enough, with James Brown’s “I Got the Feelin'”, but that feeling is quickly replaced by a murky dystopia in which Brown’s music is choppy and the dancers keep silently opening their mouths. At the end, an unaltered brown track (“Super Bad”) allows for some funk and cheer.

In this case, the program note talks about getting rid of social pressures to conform. And a lip-synced scene in “Snap” hints at Brown’s pressure to play certain roles. But I began to imagine the work as a different allegory: that of the pressure to conform to the superficial tendencies of contemporary dance.

Taylor, who cited crystal pit and Hofesh Shechter As influences, calls his blend of ballet and hip-hop “developing the practice,” but he hasn’t expanded far enough beyond these patterns, which can be superficial at first and more so when they do. are imitated. In these three works, the message and the medium are misaligned, and the expressive power of the dance is diminished, neglected. In the story I imagine, Brown’s music is the spirit of resistance, and I encourage it.

Body traffic

Until Sunday at the Joyce Theatre;

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Newsrust - US Top News: Review: A troupe from Los Angeles in search of a choreographic vision
Review: A troupe from Los Angeles in search of a choreographic vision
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