Joanna Kotze’s “Find Yourself Here”
Solange MacArthur Theater
American Dance Institute
April 25, 2015
by George Jackson
© 2015 by George Jackson
Some of the cast for the Joanna Kotze dance was busy laying down linoleum tiles while the audience seated itself, consulted the printed program and began watching.
The tiles were square and diversely colored. They were being placed carefully but in apparently random patterns on the stage floor’s front. Then they were picked up and put down further back. House lights remained on. This was repeated a bit too often until all the colored squares were at the floor’s back perimeter. They ended up not laid out but stacked into four piles, two higher and two lower ones. A member of the linoleum laying team - visual artist Zachary Fabri – kept interrupting his immediately purposeful activity to deliver a few movement asides: fairly brief phrases such as a run in slow motion with the arms punching forward, or a spell of torso vibrating, or an eye dance of stares at the audience. Kotze’s choreography distinguishes between dance and motion as well as among subtypes. Of her six performers, half are designated as dancers and half as visual artists. She doesn’t, with one exception, spare the latter.
Photo by Ayala Gazit.
The linoleum squares are used as thematic device for tying this dance piece together and they come into focus repeatedly. Eventually there are squares, white ones, that appear on the stage’s black backdrop. Also, the neatly arranged stacks of squares are upset and mini-squares are deployed. My craving for a different shape, something not square, was aroused but never quenched. However, the action had plenty of variety.
When the house lights dim, all six performers file on like kids playing the game of choo choo train. The train moves about the stage in different configurations and then splits up. That is when the choreography really begins to explore individual bodies. These are the richest portions of Kotze’s piece. Netta Yerushalmy, one of the three dancers, is of compact shape. She is flown in the air by two of the men. On her own she briefly shows off a wonderful bounce, but when angling her torso and limbs she’s not as striking as Kotze. The choreographer herself is lanky and articulates her joints as emphatically as any ballet dancer. Except, instead of being turned out and pulled up, Kotze is taut in a stern, modern-dance manner. Even penduling her arms there’s no velvet cushioning in her motion but drive and determination do show.
The third dancer, Stuart Singer, moves in a smooth, sensual way. His muscles seem to massage themselves as he maneuvers around the stage or even as he stands almost still. The choreographer allows us to enjoy these contrasting sorts of dancers. Most interesting for me were moments of transition from one movement to another type or subtype, and passages in which motions such as stepping and running generated rhythmic sound.
As for the three visual artists, Kotze is generous showing them as individuals. She explores Fabri’s caution, particularly in the first part of her piece. She uses Asuka Goto sparingly, mostly as still point and statuary – a sort of modern caryatid – whose posing gives the stage space a center. That Kotze can also be cruel comes like a confession at the end of “Find Yourself Here”. The stage lights dim and the action slows but such signals don’t yet usher in a conclusion. The audience’s expectations are upset as Kotze exhausts two of the men – Singer and visual artist Jonathan Allen. Singer has to deliver punishing sequences of leaps and turns around the stage. He is not allowed to collapse, unlike Albrecht in Act 2 of “Giselle”, but most go on and on. Allen, of solid body, has to dash back and forth, back and forth, across the rear of the space carrying a damned tile and do it tripling, like a gnome.
During curtain calls, Kotze asked the audience to join her in wishing a happy birthday to Jonathan Allen.