Hedwig Dances’ “Vanishing Points” | Dance review
On April 13, 2012, by mayoral proclamation Hedwig Dances Day in Chicago, Hedwig Dances opened its two-week run of “Vanishing Points” at Stage 773. Its four short works by four different choreographers go together the way looks in a fashion show go together. “Vanishing Points” has a point of view and it’s a fashionable show. If “contemporary concert dance” conjures for you no image more specific than “things and stuff,” pin it to something more tangible (and, like all dance, gloriously intangible) this weekend or next.
Opener Dance of Forgotten Steps by founder-director Jan Bartoszek is stronger than its first iteration two years ago by a leap and a bound. A smaller venue suits it well as does a new score by Michael Caskey and deeply reworked choreography. Its first few scenes create a mood and not much else but, beginning with a complex retreat by the cast, oriented forward but moving backward, it becomes memorable. It becomes compelling beginning with the diagonal retreat of five dancers dragging sculptor Barbara Cooper’s five asymmetrically curved, tall screens into the upstage-left corner, where dancer Jessie Gutierrez “vanishes” following a solo that ups the gravity of the stage environment. Gutierrez—excellent in all three works she danced—then reappears embracing Victor Alexander from behind and the two perform a beautiful floorbound duet that expresses a still weightier attachment to the earth.
Following Steps and bookending the program’s intermission are two trios that use rope. Well, in the second, company member Victor Alexander’s Line of Sighs, 12 white lines hanging from head-height along the rear wall at first appear to be ropes. The first, eighth and ninth from left are attached by chrome carabiners to the front lip of the low stage. As Alexander, Edson Cabrera and Michel Rodriguez move and clip the other nine lines to match, it becomes apparent that the cables are extremely elastic. (Alexander’s collaborator, set and co–costume designer is visual artist Deborah Valoma, with whom he plans to work during his year as a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist.)
Once these dozen bungees are in place they look roughly like the strings to the right of the bridge in this photo and what follows is one of the most promising new works seen during this or last season. (This video of a related project developed last year gives a sense of the piece.) It recalls Alwin Nikolais’s 1953 Tensile Involvement, Café Müller by Pina Bausch (with white lines in for black chairs), Trisha Brown’s Sticks and Susan Marshall’s sensibility with regard to stage objects. The men’s manipulations of the cables and of each other physically suggest a huge range of possible relationships and emotions among them. It’s not often that my immediate reaction to a dance is Hot damn do I want to see that again; kudos to Ken Bowen for a tightly integrated lighting scheme.
It’s Not About You by Judith Sánchez Ruíz doesn’t quite elicit the same response but if you consider it in the following manner it becomes an interesting thought exercise: The character in black holding the end of the fat rope at the beginning is the work’s subject, this “you.” The character around whose neck the noose at the rope’s other end hangs is the subject’s personal history and sense of self. The third character, with whom the second dances a duet, is the It of the work’s title. Two casts perform the piece’s duet during the run of “Vanishing Points,” one a male-female pair of dancers, the other male-male.
Closer Por Dentro, choreographed by Rodriguez to “We Share Our Mother’s Health” and other songs by The Knife wasn’t helped by sound coming only through one channel, nor by the fact that it appeared unevenly rehearsed, but it’s much more by its end than what first meets the eye. As I’ve said before, Rodriguez is one of Chicago’s most brilliant dancers; the open inquisitiveness and hunger for risk to which that status is due is reflected in his movement and compositional choices. Por Dentro also contributes a much-needed levity to the evening as it ends.