Synapse Arts — New Works: Live review
Worlds away from Stridulate, last year’s dance and live voice experiment that visited the Centre Artistique International Roy Hart near Nîmes, France in July, Synapse Arts’s new dances have the strange stillness of a conversation directed by David Lynch. Both Rachel Damon and Lauren Warnecke’s pieces—they presented two apiece September 9 and 10—hand us a rhythmic alternation of witnessing and waiting. Lights are abruptly shut off, then brought back up on new arrangements. Not much happens for a minute or two, then a woman in the background begins slapping her body and flailing her arms in a repeating pattern as though a voodoo doll was left to the devices of a skipping CD.
Dream logic is running the show.
Commonalities between Damon’s pair of works (solitary duet, a solo she dances, and fourbound, a quartet for others) are a certain toughness, and sense that inner emotional states are shifting like mercury but translated to the exterior in a way that can’t be trusted. Damon’s current research, of which solitary duet is an early installment, is about gender expression and dualities. She’s wearing a plain brown dress when she flips on the floor lamp at her side, but bobs and weaves like a boxer with her fists in front of her face. Those fists, and the tension of her stance, release into a slack jangle of loose joints and greedily expressive hand gestures, but then she zips herself back up again, and repeats the process. It’s an improvised performance, but a structured one, that she’s developed with the assistance of movement coach Kristina Fluty; it’s interesting that she sings bits of “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” throughout, the way Fluty sang fragments of a folk song during her solo Lore in the same space last month. I’m curious to see where this research goes in later installments of Factor Ricochet, Damon’s CDF-supported umbrella project.
The Fat Lady Sings: An Opera in Three Acts—a trio by Warnecke—and fourbound could almost be scenes from the same environment. There’s the pausing and restarting in both and, with a few exceptions, a healthy (or is it grudging?) distance between the dancers. What’s different is who induces one’s action: In Fat Lady, the three hold their own throats, and audio that trickles in toward the end (over ambient noise and distorted snatches of Bach on a piano) is the cheerful voice of a commercial woman explaining the place of sugars in the diets people choose for themselves. A movement phrase in fourbound, meanwhile, is taught onstage, first with words, and then through manual manipulation. Audio by a duo that goes by Coppice (Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer) is all creaky doors and the churn of liquid in a sluice, sounds of one thing’s effect on another.
Warnecke’s other work, Render: Channeling Terpsichore, finds her and Johannah Wininsky in full Degas skirts near two freestanding windows dressed with sheer curtains. After the detailed movement worlds of Fat Lady and solitary duet, the stagecraft (costumes Wendy Park; set Chris Carr and Roger Wykes) feels slightly unnecessary. Terpsichore is the muse of dance, but this work addresses ballet in particular—the two even wear rehearsal slippers. As a former ballet dancer myself, I expected to understand a bit more of what was driving their blank-faced execution of new steps based on dégagés, temps liés, arabesques and ronds de jambe à terre. I didn’t, and enjoyed that. Here was a piece of choreography in a balletic idiom that felt completely foreign to me—how unexpected.