AMERICAN DANCE FESTIVAL Presents Baye & Asa’s 4 | 2 | 3 Review — Stirring, Original

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Audience members who hadn’t read the program notes via QR code ahead of time would be forgiven for having misgivings when 4 | 2 | 3 opens with three pre-teen dancers, two girls and one boy.  Did you mistakenly come to a dance school recital? Then, as you watch them you begin to think—- hmm, they are actually quite good.  One is crouching and hopping round in circles as if they have hooves somehow tied up for a three legged race.  She evokes an animal but we don’t know exactly which.  The two others start in beach repose, shifting position in tight unison. The three exchange roles fluidly, adding movement phrases as their subgroup formations gel, dissolve and re-form again.  One would be dragged. Another would crouch hop.  They cross the floor and at times recede towards a mysterious black hole window or the curious industrial vent-like tube to the side.  These two features are the set. These young dancers have our attention fully.  At times it seems like two gang up against one— a harbinger perhaps of the second set where whiffs of conflict crescendo and decrescendo in an on again-off again theme.

AMERICAN DANCE FESTIVAL Hosts a Climate Change New Work by Baye & Asa

From the program notes we learn that these tweens are one of three generations grappling with “..our collective search for blame” vis a vis humanity’s industrial history.  The 4 | 2 | 3  title is a reference to the Riddle of the Sphinx—- What has 4 legs in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and 3 legs in the evening?  The answer is man.  This is a new work commissioned both by The American Dance Festival and Baryshnikov Arts. 

More a visual poem than an essay or theatrical script with a clear narrative arc, we experience something that is other than a reasoned treatise on climate change.  Rather, we feel our current, past and emerging human experience in the context of our dying planet reality.  

There are five performers in 2— two men and three women.  The electronic score by MIZU fills the room—an anti-lullaby that sometimes seem to be the voice of panic or angst.  At other times the soundscape lets a percussive paragraph become a page and seems to clear the way for the ensemble to move as one.  This music, like the choreography, does not know gentle or peace. 

From the program notes we learn that Baye & Asa claim their choreographic roots in hip hop and African Dance languages.  You too may often feel the choreography like a switchblade making unpredictable flashes into fluid Tai Chi moves.  They pair and de-pair quickly. Soloists fly across the floor. Two pick up one. Four pick up a fifth.  Sometimes the ensemble seems to be charged by aggressive spirits— even their eyes widening to signal challenges and reminding of the facial flares of Indonesian dancers.  Sometimes they become a moving sculpture, perhaps a shadowy sphinx.  Their costumes—- superb in this reviewer’s opinion— have cutaways to show either muscled scapular areas for the men and flashes of torsos for the women.  

2’s choreography doesn’t allow for any dancer to be less than an athletic champion.  You too may want to yell out Bravo! and Brava! long before it’s time for their bows.  

The crowd favorite is the soloist in 3, much credentialed Janet Charleston, who among her long list of credits includes currently being on the faculty for the Cunningham Technique Teacher Training.  Harsh lighting accentuates her age.  Many of her moves echo what’s come before, sans the threat of aggression that ribbons throughout.  Instead she concentrates our focus on the blinding glare from a light in the vent tunnel to the side.  This glare seems interrupts her dance.  We think of the sun burning up the planet.  SPOILER ALERT:  Especially when she loosens her braid so that her waist-length silver hair floats freely, she evokes a feeling of a delicately floating butterfly caught in a bell jar. We feel fragile. 

It seems fitting that 4| 2 | 3 ’s world premiere coincided with headlines of unprecedented heat waves across the US and the globe.


Visit Baye & Asa website for more information on the company.

The American Dance Festival 2024 continues thru October 13, 2024.  Visit the American Dance Festival website for more information. 


Photo is still taken from video preview.

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.


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