Live review: enidsmithdance: “Just Resting Here”
Over the weekend of February 25 at, dancer-choreographer Enid Smith’s eponymous, lower case–loving group presented two new works. Mystery was key to the appeal of Melissa Schleicher-Sanchez’s All are Pieces of the Whole but strangely, although Smith’s Novembers was “based on curious events,” it offered so few clues it was hard to follow her trail.
A graduate student in Columbia’s dance/movement therapy and counseling program, Schleicher-Sanchez invents luscious, lucid movement—and lots of it—that satisfies the eye and, by the looks of it, the body as well. Whole’s four sections traced lines in three dimensions as if the dancers were drafting a structure designed by Louis Kahn. (Just as Warren Beatty stuck with single shades of each color to give his film version of Dick Tracy the feel of Chester Gould’s comic, Schleicher-Sanchez held fast to basic geometries: Perfect circles, clean planes and 90- or 45-degree angles.) Whole projected symmetry despite its asymmetries, the latter in conversation-like groupings evocative of Merce Cunningham.
Photos of body parts (by Aron Gent) were projected on the back wall, cropped to highlight our distance from these mathematical ideals. Hair falling casually over a shoulder softened the slice of the straight arm and flat hand that extended away from it. Poses captured the messy in-betweens when one position is departed in a dance toward another. As the piece moved through its well-matched score (Peter Broderick, the Black Angels, Brian Eno with and without David Byrne) the choreography tipped and slid off of its perfect pedestals, too.
A motif of churning boxer’s fists gathered speed and intensity as though the cast was preparing to punch its way out of formality’s confinement. The act of sitting, at first plain, acquired a spiral rotation, a drilling of the self into the floor. Plank-straight bodies’ weight fell forward until reflexes kicked in to catch them; this became the impetus for a growing number of dance phrases. Whole’s four-part structure, beautifully crafted, came together like a cabinet built without nails.
Novembers shared this precise deliberateness. Its opening vignette took the simple route to portraying routine domesticity: A woman with a rag dusted Links Hall’s signature closet doors and their well-worn brass knobs. Yet the wooden bench behind her—from which bottles, jars and vases hung illuminated from within by electric tealights—suggested chaos in freeze-frame, a storm about to resume. (Kate Smith’s recording of “We’ll Meet Again” nicely underlined this mood.) Three additional dancers, all female as in Whole, arrived onstage in simple print dresses with narrow belts (by Wendy Park) and began dancerly games of Solitaire with two blue and two red decks of playing cards.
But then Samantha Barr’s lighting popped like a vintage flashbulb and the dancers slipped into this inevitable…something. Their bodies swayed with one arm held high as if they were leafless trees to restless chamber music by Wendy Carlos, Peter Schickele and A. J. Kernis. It all combined vividly to take us from the warm insides of a home in winter to North Shore streets cold, dark and empty.
One dancer was made to scramble around and pick up far-flung playing cards with a disturbing lack of resentment, while the rest locked elbows like sisters or a clique. A tall, long-limbed woman—presumably Smith although the program was woefully incomplete—joined the group about halfway through Novembers and literally stirred the space with oscillating forearm movements. She laid on her back and chillingly traced her body’s footprint with a finger, a ghost revisiting the site of its birth.
Novembers intrigued but was written in too-secret a language, echoed by the way these young women seemed to be stopped by a force field as they approached the room’s edges. They couldn’t get out. Curious events, indeed: I wanted to know what inspired this work. But I couldn’t get in.