Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflecting on Reflections: A Dance Review

A few weeks ago a brave man set up a dance show in the most unlikely of circumstances. In the middle of the summer in a place no one had ever been, a crowd was drawn simply by the name, "Adam Wile: Dance Reflections." 

Pieter is not the sort of space you would expect to house a number of regular dance performances, classes and events. The location itself seems unlikely to an unsuspecting passerby, although the corner upon which it sits is littered with a number of buildings to which creative businesses have laid claim. The performance space sits atop one such building, used as a workshop, housing, and secrets I dare not imagine. Facilitated almost exclusively by dance artists, the Pieter loft is an irregular quadrilateral of hardwood flooring, marred by heavy foot traffic and impromptu electrical outlets. Four beams rise up from the floor in no particular pattern, as though to keep the ceiling put.
However unfriendly an environment this seems for a dancer, for an emerging choreographer space is space. And Jmy James Leary, owner and director of Pieter, has made sure it is a charming one. A fully stocked kitchen and bathroom sit on the northeast side of the loft, while a dressing room (slash her office slash her sleeping quarters) is available to the performers. A boutique sits at the far end of the entryway, composed entirely of donations made by event attendees. There is a peaceful socialist ease about Jmy’s brainchild, and the result is something very old world/New York City that feels very new just east of East L.A.
Recently, Adam Wile, an emerging choreographer in his last year of undergraduate study at Cal Arts, called on Pieter to present an evening of his most recent works. Adam Wile: Dance Reflections premiered in August to a sizeable crowd. Indeed, so sizeable that the modest floor space was often encroached upon by audience members’ shifting positions. The evening consisted of six performances, half of which were duets, all of which showcased a young artist’s strengthening aesthetic sensibility.
First, Ability, a duet performed to live music - the only such feat in the show. A cellist placed upstage against the dancers cued dancing and lights and suddenly, yet effectively, the audience was immersed. Struggle, resistance, and rebellion are the hallmarks of this piece as the dancers continue to push away from, or off of, one another. The movement vocabulary set in this opening is easily traceable throughout the show, as much of it is comprised of familiar gestures broken up with bursts of ambitious displays of athleticism.
Perhaps the most athletic, and arguably conventional, piece of the evening was the trio, This Much. The ever popular leap sideways to land on the knee trick we saw all over So You Think You Can Dance this summer found its way onto the stage, although to be fair, Wile choreographed the trio some time earlier, and I would bet many dollars he has never watched an episode. Still, it does an artist well to understand the clich├ęs he is up against. The bright, energetic quality of the movement, costumes and original soundscape of the piece provided an excellent segue from the darkness of Ability into the quirky humor of the next duet, Grizzly Bare Arms.
A “bromance” for the dance stage, Grizzly Bare Arms is like watching all the best parts of I Love You, Man in four minutes performed by better looking dudes. There are two conventional ways to get audiences to laugh by dancing, both of which suck. One is the classic schleppy guy in a comedy dancing around for the sake of cheap physical humor. The other is high brow dance art for dance artists, making a statement steeped in irony that we, and only we, are supposed to understand. Wile’s guy on guy duet is neither of these things. It’s genuinely funny. That’s it. I can’t even bother to explain it because, like all truly funny things, you had to be there.
The evening’s final duet, Same, was by and large an audience favorite. Some of this can certainly be attributed to the nudity of beautiful people (we’d like to believe we’re above that, but we’d lose half our dance audience if we chose not to acknowledge the aesthetic value of near-perfect human form.) But the brilliance of the work is not found in the part that anybody could have done – read: taking off clothes. The apparent ease of composition is the heart of this piece’s attraction. Unison that makes you hold your breath, subtle changes in direction, go-for-broke feats of physicality, all the best pieces of concert dance are there, and then BAM! Naked boy and girl. Wile has a winner.
The remainder of the show, including the evening’s largest cast of four women in 4444 and a male solo, Steak, delicately rounded out the aesthetic examination Wile’s work seems to favor. 4444 was probably the most intricately gestural piece, performed with a stoicism that highlighted the angular quality of the unison movement. The solo captured Wile’s use of free flowing improvisational play from which much of his movement stems. Into the floor in the blink of an eye, and back up again in an impossibly slow spiral, the dancer’s athletic ability was certainly the focus here. Actually, his pure physical prowess was exploited so thoroughly in this piece, one might have felt bad for him, but not bad enough to want it to stop.
Refreshments were served post performance by Jmy herself, and many concert goers partook of the ‘take a thing, leave a thing’ boutique. I suspect even without these people trapping perks, the audience would have happily lingered in order to congratulate Adam Wile on an ambitious artistic venture. If a show’s success can be measured by the mood of the room post-performance, then Wile has himself a success – and he’s just warming up.

the outside.

the inside.

from foreground: Lauren, Erin and Lollie rehearse This Much

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