The opening moment of Works & Process at the Guggenheim consists of a charismatic woman (soprano Tiffany Abban) appearing from the back of the audience in a gorgeous black dress, being followed by a young man (pianist Patrick Gallagher), also dressed in black and carrying the end of the woman’s train, which is more than twenty feet long! After a slow procession to the front of the stark, white stage, the pianist loops the end of the singer’s train over his neck and sits down at the piano, now conjoined with his musical partner via the draped fabric. This dramatic beginning sets the tone for Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung’s costume and dance commission, March 25th and 26th, 2018 at the Guggenheim in New York City.
Reid & Harriet Design began in late 2011, after the collaborators met studying fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Reid Bartelme is also a professional dancer and Harriet Jung interestingly has a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology. Together, they have designed costumes for the crème de la crème of American dance; including American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. They collaborate repeatedly with one of this writer’s favorite choreographers, Justin Peck, and they were featured (along with Peck) in the fabulous documentary BALLET 422.
Six Short Pieces Showcased in this Works & Process at the Guggenheim
For the Guggenheim, Bartelme and Jung have gathered together a group of exquisite dancers and sought after choreographers and musicians for a program of six short pieces. Though a collaborative effort, the focus and the star of the evening is the costume design. And rightly so. The creations are innovative, yet functional, and refreshingly genderless.
The final piece of six, Tropopause, best shows off Bartelme and Jung’s design talent and is the strongest example of the full integration of design elements - costume, dance and music. The piece dynamically takes us on a vibrant textile journey - from neon, citrus-colored net unitards (with fascinatingly high necklines reminiscent of a beekeeper) through tight, rubbery flesh-toned unitards, finishing out the piece with large, billowing two-tone sacks, each dancer moving through space in their own full-body parachute. The abstract yet evocative storytelling through costume is dexterously matched by Burr Johnson’s eerie soundscape and dynamic choreography. Johnson, who is also one of the dancers in this and two other pieces, creates movement that actually takes into consideration the shape, lines and movement of the costume itself. There are numerous moments of stationary choreography (meaning the dancer would gesture or make a line with their body but would not change their place on the stage) and there are also numerous moments of stillness. This writer obviously loves movement but wishes there were more of these simple, pared away moments throughout the evening, really allowing us to see the costume.
Choreographically speaking, a stunning male duet is the highlight of the evening. Lar Lubovitch, whose company is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary season, sets an excerpt from Something About Night, which premieres in its entirety April 17-21st at the Joyce Theatre (see you there!). The dancers’ long lines and graceful partnering bring us a sense of delicacy and comfort. This is also supported musically with Schubert’s Die Nacht, a reverent (and apparently quite obscure) male choral piece. However, this poetic state of being is directly juxtaposed by the costume design. The men are fully decked out in matching, multi-colored sequined tops and bottoms. The creations are flamboyant and bold - a completely unexpected choice considering the feel of the piece. This dichotomy creates an interesting tension as well as opportunity for an “off the cuff” moment as some of the large sequins (payettes) have fallen off. After the piece, choreographer Jack Ferver crawls out on his hands and knees and gives us a stream of consciousness narration into a handheld mic, all while wearing a tiny leotard. As well as an indirect introduction to his upcoming piece, it is funny and engaging and he can ensure the stage is clear of hazards for him and his dancers.
The talkback, hosted by the buoyant fashion-designer Isaac Mizrahi, was informative and quite delightful. It’s always exciting to hear fellow artists speak passionately about their work and especially illuminating to hear the three designers chat about shopping for materials.
Works & Process at the Guggenheim has been presenting artists for over 33 years. It is highly recommended for the adventurous art lover who wants the opportunity to be challenged as an audience member and gain insight into the artists’ process.
For more information on upcoming performances visit the Works & Process at the Guggenheim website.
Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung with Jack Ferver, Burr Johnson, Lar Lubovitch, Pam Tanowitz and Gwen Welliver
Reid Bartelme, Maggie Cloud, Jack Ferver, Russell Janzen, Burr Johnson, Harriet Jung and Stuart Singer
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—
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".