One for the Ladies: inQuad at Dixon Place

Lindsey L. Miller in her Impulse. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

Lindsey L. Miller in her Impulse. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

New York, N.Y. Dixon Place, a performing arts venue in Lower Manhattan, has a reputation for unpredictable offerings. But inQuad, a split bill contemporary dance series created by Inclined Dance Project to feature the work of four up-and-coming female choreographers, is becoming a familiar presence amongst the venue’s August offerings. The third iteration, presented August 18 and 19, featured five distinct works over two acts covering a range of artistic inquiries and featuring what was overall an impressively strong roster of dancers.

Both acts opened with pieces from LL Moves artistic director Lindsey L. Miller, the only choreographer with multiple works on the program. The first, Impulse, is a duet for Miller and Victoria Dombroski, which, according to the program note, is concerned with repetition and the line between persistence and insanity. Through a recurring ball-change motif that brings the dancers in and out of unison and contact, Miller achieves the effect of a rhythmic reset; a looping gesture that circles their joined hands around their heads speaks to mental fixation. Both are wonderfully leggy dancers, though I found myself wondering whether they felt constrained by the relatively close space, as neither quite managed to meet the dynamics indicated by the music.

LL Moves in Lindsey L. Miller's The Trees Are Falling. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

LL Moves in Lindsey L. Miller’s The Trees Are Falling. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

The second of Miller’s offerings, The Trees Are Falling, was more ambitious in scope. It pitted a single male soloist against five women in a work that almost instantly reads as an archetypical “Man vs. Nature”conflict even without the additional information provided by the program note, the video projection showing images of the natural world (by Court Whelan), or even the title. The man observes and admires the women, singles them out in duets, or pits himself against them, childishly throwing each to the floor—not necessarily in that order. If the lack of attentive care shown toward his partners was a choreographic choice, it unfortunately read as a problem of the dancer’s. Throughout, I was most struck by Miller’s use of the ensemble while a solo or duet happened elsewhere onstage, creating elegant, architectural constructs that recalled the theme of the work with clarity and subtlety. Overall, the piece as a whole was a bit too on-the-nose for my personal taste (the video, in particular, felt extraneous), but I believe there are the seeds of something quite striking lingering in the airy, spiraling movement created for the ensemble.

Łukasz Ziêba and Miriam Gabriel in Zultari Gomez's Familiar Feeling. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

Łukasz Ziêba and Miriam Gabriel in Zultari Gomez’s Familiar Feeling. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

Familiar Feeling, choreographed by Zultari Gomez, begins with a duet for Miriam Gabriel and Łukasz Ziêba. Through measured gestural conversations, familiar lifts, and the occasional handshake, slap, or hug, they explore the contours of a relationship built upon tropes. When they embrace awkwardly and take stilted, waltzing steps back to center, or when she clutches at his leg and clambers onto his back, it is purposefully recognizable, yet offbeat. She rushes at him and tries to bite his hand; he stops her forward momentum with a hand to her forehead; she continues to run in place when he walks away. When Kerime Jessica Konur enters in an eye-catching skirt, however, she brings with her an entirely different energy and vocabulary.

(L-R) Miriam Gabriel, Kerime Jessica Konur, and Łukasz Ziêba in Zultari Gomez's Familiar Feeling. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

(L-R) Miriam Gabriel, Kerime Jessica Konur, and Łukasz Ziêba in Zultari Gomez’s Familiar Feeling. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

The second half, reached after an awkward, semi-comic interlude of skirt swapping, feels like a different piece, imbued with a new urgency courtesy of Konur’s ferocity and athleticism. She flies in with powerful jumps, allows one hip to lead her into a spin to the ground, then rises balanced on one leg, her elbow resting on an upraised knee, her chin on her hand, stretching out the moment until she bursts into another jump. Gabriel and Ziêba match her, resulting in some excellent, uninhibited dancing mixed with club-style grooving as the three continuously up the ante. When Gabriel dives face first offstage (into the arms of Ziêba, out of sight), there were audible gasps; when she repeats the action, almost immediately followed by Konur, only for Ziêba to walk back onstage and look at the audience with a smirk as the lights go down, it was greeted by a mix of laughter and cheers. It was a perfectly cheeky, high-octane ending to a piece that became increasingly fun to watch as it progressed, though I was not convinced that the first and second half together equalled a cohesive whole.

(L-R) Jared McAboy, Alex Tenreiro Theis (lifted), and Lukas Dellios in Angie Moon's Vantablack. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

(L-R) Jared McAboy, Alex Tenreiro Theis (lifted), and Lukas Dellios in Angie Moon’s Vantablack. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

The first act closed with a new work from Angie Moon Dance Theatre*, presenting at inQuad for the second year in a row. Vantablack begins with one dancer (Carly Krulee) alone onstage, silkily repeating a slow motion, stationary moonwalk. Two men enter carrying a second woman (Alex Tenreiro Theis), who is suspended upside down and pacing as though she were matching Krulee’s steps on the ceiling. A slow, meticulous shift, and the four meet in a tableau, Tenreiro Theis, now upright, precariously projecting forward from her stance on Lukas Dellios’ thighs while she engages the other man (Jared McAboy, now leaning back into Krulee) in a conversation robbed of words. The piece is filled with such exactingly constructed images, oscillating with moments of daredevil athleticism: Tenreiro Theis throws herself at the ground repeatedly and vaults upward from where her weight is supported on her shoulders, suspending herself nearly parallel to the ground; Dellios lies on his side, arms and legs moving as though he were taking a stroll along the side wall, as the other three raise him to standing without interrupting his pace; McAboy crouches, holding one foot with a look of distrust, then rises to fly through a series of tour en l’air (a jump that comprises a single or double rotation in place before landing) in the space of an indrawn breath.

(L-R) Carly Krulee, Jared McAboy, Alex Tenreiro Theis, and Lukas Dellios in Angie Moon's Vantablack. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

(L-R) Carly Krulee, Jared McAboy, Alex Tenreiro Theis, and Lukas Dellios in Angie Moon’s Vantablack. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

Throughout, their control is absolute, supporting themselves and each other in ways that don’t look as though they should be anatomically possible, yet on these dancers seem as natural as breathing. (McAboy and Dellios in particular should take great pride in making partner work that requires immense strength and coordination look like nothing at all.) Moon takes the commonplace—walking, talking—and shifts it on its axis to create something seemingly impossible, or at the very least strange. What is recognizable is slowed down, skewed, and reconstructed; paradoxes seem to unfold before your eyes. I could not shake the thought that the work was M.C. Escher–like in its construction, but instead of paradoxical staircases folding back on themselves there are snatches of movements and gestures tweaked into infinite new permutations and combinations, resulting in a satisfying rhythmic and visual complexity. Vantablack proved to be exceptionally nuanced, possessing a depth I would gladly watch be plumbed further.

Inclined Dance Project in Kristen Klein's Phyla. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

Inclined Dance Project in Kristen Klein’s Phyla. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

The evening closed with Phyla, Inclined Dance Project’s contribution, choreography by artistic director Kristen Klein. The four dancers enter at a run and collapse to the floor. At center is Amy Campbell, folded over her knees as her hands crawl to life, seemingly of their own volition, the only movement happening onstage. The hands coordinate, shift her leg, and she falls, causing a restless rearranging of legs until she lands in a crouch. A rustle of motions until her shoulders settle; the others begin to slowly shift, eventually making their way to stand through walking standing splits—a dancerly take on the evolution from quadruped to biped. They meet downstage, turn tail and run to hit the upstage wall, flashing through poses before they run away to form a circle, meeting in a deep second, arms overhead.

Maria Gardner and Amy Campbell in Kristen Klein's Phyla. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

Maria Gardner and Amy Campbell in Kristen Klein’s Phyla. Photo by Andrew Mauney, Courtesy inQuad.

Duets and trios emerge and recede; the occasional solo breaks through before being subsumed back into the group. The dancers are by turns patient and bombastic, precisely placed and more concerned with eating space. Campbell continues to draw focus through the sheer force of her commitment, while Maria Gardner becomes increasingly magnetic with her precisely calibrated focus. There is some sense of build through the various pairings—attempts at cooperation at either a cellular or social level—though at times forward momentum seems stalled. But in the final section there is no question that the climax has arrived, the beat dropping, fragments from earlier solos returning in unison duets, the group finding a common pulse that propels them into motion. They run, leap, kick, walk away, nodding along to the beat that dictates their movements. The simple, repetitive rhythm continues into the black and quiet, the percussive, driving force of their feet ending only on a final, definitive stomp.

Until next year.

 

*Disclosure: This reporter previously worked with Angie Moon and her dancers while a student at NYU.

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Courtney Escoyne is an assistant editor and contributor at Dance Magazine. A recent graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Dance, her writing can also be read in Pointe and on her blog, Thoughts From a Ballet Nerd.