Picture this - the lights creep up to reveal a single male dancer, backlit by warm copper-colored floor lights. He is lying flat on his back. Another dancer approaches him and methodically, almost clinically, adjusts his body position. Then another dancer enters and alters his body position again, this time leaving his arm pointing in the air. The electronic soundscape, whirring like a helicopter, builds in intensity and adds tension.
Where are we? What is this world?
What are these movements the dancers are imposing on him?
14th Street Y Hosts Bryn Cohn & Dancers
This evocative opening of the short piece, Skin, sets us up for an eclectic yet cohesive evening of Bryn Cohn’s work, playing at the 14th Street Y through this Sunday, February 18th.
Bryn Cohn + Artists (not surprisingly helmed by Bryn Cohn), has been blossoming since its inception in 2011 and this weekend they celebrate their first repertory program of five short pieces. The world-premiere of A Perfect Union is accompanied by Skin, If You Sink, Home and 4AM.
Five dynamic dancers perform. Not unlike our current winter Olympians, they expertly balance grace with athleticism. In each piece, we feel like we are watching performers at the peak of their technical abilities take risks and expand within each movement. Cohn’s vision is greatly supported by Kevin Keller’s expressive, versatile musical score and stunning lighting design by Tim Cryan. The result is a stimulating yet accessible, well-rounded evening of dance.
In SKIN (2015), we watch in wonder as the other dancers impose movement and behavior on their pupil, like a wooden art doll. We feel like we are learning to move with him! It’s exciting and we are drawn into the specificity of the world with anticipation. The mystique of the piece is further heightened by Sebastian Arango’s innovative costume design - suggesting of another time period with a touch of haute-couture, though not all that functional as the costumes don’t always stay put and threaten to impede the movement.
A Perfect Union
A Perfect Union, a World Premiere solo piece performed by Jessica Malat, features a provocative text-based score. No matter one’s politics, the cutting and pasting of inaugural and political speeches from the likes of Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and Donald Trump is very powerful. We are stopped in our tracks and made to really listen to these memorable words. Though taken out of context and disjointed, as soon as we hear the first few words of each speech we instantly know the who, what, where and when and the emotional response is immediate. The 9/11 speech is especially palpable, as we watch the dancer try to make sense of things, to physically carve out some connectivity despite the abrasive soundscape. A profound metaphor.
Home, the most sophisticated piece of the evening, begins with the five dancers circling a traditional set-up of table and chairs. Though it looks as if they could sit down to a nice family meal, there is something dangerous about the way the dancers are staring at each other as they walk. It feels like they are stalking one another and at any given moment, they might pounce. They proceed to turn this familial set-up on its head, creatively using the set pieces and the entire stage to frame their interactions with each other. At one point they begin to flail themselves about-seemingly to be seen and understood. One can’t help but think about their own relationships at “home”.
If You Sink
If You Sink is a beautiful duet set to Chopin. Using more classical, almost leaning towards balletic movement, we feel the push and pull of how the dancers support each other and the strength and softness revealed in an intimate relationship.
As the title suggests, 4AM is a pulsating, choreographed rave - and who doesn’t love witnessing that??--especially from the comfort of your seat!
Visceral and kinetic, the dancers explore losing inhibition with themselves and with each other. The dancers enter traveling backwards, seemingly in their own circular vortex. We are mesmerized and really feel like we are being taken along for the ride. Tim Cryan’s lighting is particularly exceptional in this piece, guiding us from the late-night club feel, through a stark, momentary sobriety and then into this feeling of exhausted ecstacy. This is an explosive, satisfying finale.
Though each piece lives in its own unique theatrical world, Bryn Cohn’s ever-present aesthetic brings everything together. Her vision is strong and specific and we are taken on a compelling journey each time the lights come up.
Above slider images are from 4AM
This writer recommends seeing this performance, especially if you are a newcomer to modern dance, or dance in general.
Dancers: Chelsea Ainsworth, Nico Gonzales, Jessica Malat, Yuliya Romanskaya and Will Tomaskovic
Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”. Watch this video preview of the story here—
Friday, February 16, 2018 at 7:30pm
Saturday, February 17, at 7:30pm
Sunday, February 18th at 3pm
The Theater at the 14th Street Y
344 E. 14th Street
Allison Plamondon is a choreographer, director, teacher and performer originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Choreography highlights include the Oscar-winning short film, Curfew , Goblin Market at 59E59 Theaters and direction/choreography/conception for The Tchaikovsky Vignettes at HB Studio. An avid teacher, Allison has taught at Broadway Dance Center, Abrons Arts Center and is currently on the faculty at Tom Todoroff Acting Conservatory. Performance highlights include Tap City-the Main Event, Trying at Cape May Stage and performing with Phish at Madison Square Garden, Directors Lab West ‘17, Uta Hagen Teacher Training, NYFA immigrant artist fellow, SDCF Observership with Kathleen Marshall (City Center Encores).
Learn more at the Allison Plamondon website.
Read more about Allison Plamondon in this Picture this Post feature story - "Choreographer Allison Plamondon on Merce Cunningham".