Live review | Khecari: The Clinking
Twelve months ago, it was Sharks Before Drowning. With the year’s dance calendar whittled down to a handful of Nutcrackers and my best-of lists already drafted,premiered.
With an educated hunch that lightning would strike twice, I shouted Khecari’s The Clinking out in . An hourish-long series of short episodes for its two dancer-choreographers, Julia Rae Antonick and Jonathan Meyer, given cinematic continuity by some of the year’s best lighting (by Jacob Snodgrass) and an original score by percussionist Joseph St. Charles, The Clinking combined the sense that anything might happen with a steadily built atmosphere almost palpable in its richness.
Antonick and Meyer have drawn from this well before. Their Tacit, a highlight of summer 2010, announced that its goal was “to keep the audience off balance, but toward delight rather than irritation, and to have that delight raise questions about tacit agreements.” (St. Charles and Snodgrass were key collaborators then, too.) Its busyness all but erased my ability to keep track of the dancers’ comings and goings; bodies would simply appear and disappear,. Commissura, , also merged a hypnotic, near-ritualistic tone with darkly humorous surprises left and right (one performer got “run over” by the menacing advance of a grand piano).
Both works maximized the pair’s unconventional choices of dance venue (a church’s annex in Rogers Park, Curtiss Hall at the Fine Arts Building). The Clinking brought that same approach to perhaps the most conventional indie dance venue of them all,. Whereas typically the audience there sits on risers along a short side, looking at a stage that, unusually, is far deeper than it is wide, The Clinking seated half of the audience in a single row along a long side, and the other half on risers near their usual spot, only canted so the two groupings formed an obtuse angle. This setup turned the stage’s corners into fronts and sides, and vice versa; it also made Hamlin’s theater feel more spacious than ever before.
And so, once the audience settled and opened their programs (folded and inflated, little origami balloons), the room went dark and Antonick and Meyer took the floor, facing each other many feet apart. Antonick went in and out of eclipse as Snodgrass teased his spotlight back and forth behind Meyer.
Other images that emerged from darkness: Antonick, her back to us, drifting across the floor as Meyer, underneath a black sheet upon which she stood, crawled slowly; Meyer dancing a solo as small, orange packages fell down on him like rain, sounding like little purses of coins—pieces of silver?—as they hit the floor; a long, orange beam thentofore fastened to a rafter suddenly dropping into sight to swing like a pendulum, ticking off leisurely seconds as St. Charles struck his drum kit and other items, looping and layering their complementary rhythms.
The Clinking shows the pair’s unique, slyly acrobatic dance vocabulary continuing to evolve. Echoing their skewing of Hamlin’s house, there is more play with orientation. Movements run parallel, tangential, orthogonal or asymptotic to each other, as do the axes along which the dancers rotate (there are turns and twists galore). The height and scale of actions vary greatly, and there’s great activation of that underutilized altitude between all-the-way-down-on-the-floor and all-the-way-up-on-the-feet.
Tiny mechanics delight, little soft-machine moments when a body winds up along an outstretched limb to force an embrace; when sawing motions, like temporary engines, drive a larger action; when the two reel in, yank or toss each other, the recipient’s trajectory never following a predictable path.
Subtly seasoned with their study of forms outside of contemporary-dance, such as swing and tango, this is an entirely new school of movement reaching maturity. A friend finds it somewhat “crude,” but I see a deliberate choice to use broad brushstrokes. Plenty of choreography is filigreed with perfectly executed detail and yet absent despite the obsessiveness. Antonick and Meyer are clean enough, and always show clearly the important information. This is Dufy, not Dürer.
The Clinking is packed with ideas, big and small, so much that your attention is tempted away by their proposals. That sequence where Antonick walks forward as Meyer, on his knees before her, rhythmically rearranges his fingertips, forehead and forearms? An entire dance could be spun out of that source material—and the sequence lasts only a minute or so. Ditto Meyer’s surprising appearance outside of the theater, on the adjacent roof, in a long coat and fur hat, visible through the windows, peering in, silhouetted by the floodlights that tower over Hamlin’s baseball diamond and spotlit by Snodgrass holding a lamp on a boom, who’s also outside, both men’s breath visible in the December air… Some artists who conceive of moments like that one pat themselves on the back and call it a day.
But it’s just one of dozens seen in the course of The Clinking, “part of an ongoing series investigating fairytale tropes abstracted and removed from narrative context to present a kaleidoscopic world fraught with symbolism and the tension of forced intimacy, at once ominous and whimsical,” per the origami program.
Usually, you read a dance description like that and, if you’re lucky, what you see fulfils half of the promises made. Antonick, Meyer and their creative team—including costume and fashion designer Katrin Schnabl—are uncommon in that they set out with big goals and, more often than not, exceed them.
Khecari’s The Clinking ran two nights only, December 15 and 16 at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse. An extension of the concept, The Clinking, Clanking Lowesleaf, is scheduled to premiere at the DCA Theater July 20–29, 2012.