Dedicated Space

you can read it here (with comments and other reviews) on the Dance Enthusiast:


You are supposed to hear a soundscape of measured plops and drips. The rippling waves of noise a balm your senses as you watch the dance gather in its own amplifications. Instead, “Bathtime Studies: Duet,” choreographed by EmmaGrace Skove-Epes becomes a collaboration with an unknown guitarist performing in an adjacent room. Skove-Epes, sitting on an inset windowsill watching Gyrchel Moore and Nadia Tykulsker perform her choreography, doesn’t flinch at the overlapping of performances. It washes over her.

“Bathtime Studies” was one of countless (you could count – I didn’t, as the performances spanned four hours and multiple rooms, hallways, bathrooms) works performed at AUNTS' "Time Share: Chain Curation". The show, with an entrance fee of a donation of clothing, or beer, or “just whatever” also doubled as a flea market and snack party. You watched the dances, or ate instead. Discussed the artists’ work, meandered from one installation to the next, or just got drunk, as you pleased. Many did please, filling Arts@Renassaince in Greenpoint – a bleak structural core stripped of any decoration– so that to watch a woman fingering herself in a corner room meant pushing past a crowd. It’s odd, pushing your way through sardined bodies to get a good view of a vagina. Is closer better for a detailed view? You can see she’s shaved, and pink. But edge back a few steps. Watch the woman behind you in the red bathing suit with a wedgie and long blonde wig scrape her knees against the cement as her body shakes heavily in time to the sorrowful song of a woman wailing.

The solo form dominated the evening, and one had to wonder if choreographing for one (and usually oneself) was purposeful or by necessity. It is gratifying to watch an artist seep into an idea with singular clarity, but intention sucked some of the dances into vortexes of themselves. A dance that began with pained crawling on the floor also middled and ended on that floor, in that pain. Improvisation can find movement and expression unknown to the choreographed dance, but dance one note for ten minutes and the audience will move on. Maybe they’ll go get another beer.

A choreographed duet does not allow complete release into the dance while performing. There are parameters that you and your partner agree upon so that your singular clarity has structure and perhaps some striated thinking behind it that comes from collaboration of different mindsets. “Bathtime Studies” has great sensitivity to form – patterned time and structural grids loosened with movement - that comes from a necessity translate a singular idea to the audience that both dancers and choreographer have agreed on.

When the guitar from the other room overpowers the “Bathtime Studies” soft music, Moore and Tykulsker rely on the syncing of their internal rhythm. After a brief prelude of establishing the edges of the room in three quick jaunts around the space, the duet settles its focus on a rectangular ladder of tubs, spaced out equally in 2 rows. They begin plucking their way up and down the rows with a bucket weighing heavy in their hands, slowly pouring their burden into the bins. When Moore plunges her foot into a container that isn’t yet filled with water, the lack of physical or audible resistance suspends the step for a moment – it is the grasp of your foot as it reaches for a step that isn’t there. When both women simultaneously bury their faces into the miniature pool and blow bubbles, this gives us pleasure. When they submerge their eyes, mouth, nose, and are still, we still our breath, too.

Accessing what the audience knows of water – its density, heat and wetness – Skove-Epes creates a work that physically attunes viewer with performer.  When the dancers repeat (and repeat) a unison duet that traverses them precariously along the raised edges of the bins, their speed increases incrementally each time. The subtle intensification is enough to make your eyes, nose, mouth wonder what it will feel like to be pushed into the water this time. Your body wonders what this dance feels like, and so you are eager to keep watching.

The decaying walls of Arts@Renaissance are strong enough to enclose each performance within a dedicated space, and spatial separation is enough to justify the self-contained nature of each solo (and sometimes a duet). But the music will not stop at physical barriers, the audience can leave midway through the piece, and the desolation of the space makes each dance grey and lonely. One dance seeps into the next and their singular purpose is blurred. Perhaps it was an ensemble work all along. 

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