DoublePlus: A split bill curated by Luciana Achugar
Oren Barnoy, Naomi Elena Ramirez
Gibney Dance Center
New York, NY
December 8, 2016
by Martha Sherman
copyright © 2016 by Martha Sherman
Choreographer luciana achugar is out there; she holds nothing back in her choreography. Her work is dense and complex, often disturbing. Not surprisingly, in the split bill evening she curated for Gibney Dance Center, she chose two young artists who were also powerful and demanding, both insisting that their viewers never relax. Surprisingly, though, neither work offered achugar’s complexity; each was like a single note, played on a single string.
Paul Hamilton and Greg Zuccolo. Photo © Scott Shaw.
The opening floor projection was of Ramirez in an animal posture, folded in half and seen from behind, naked except for her transparent black fishnet stockings and bra. In the unsettling dark, a low light rose on her, in the same pose, upstage. In this first of several scenes, she slithered on the floor, most often in a folded V, her legs spread wide, genitalia exposed and eyes taunting. She was like the playboy centerfold that got cut as too explicit (“temptress, wild woman,”). She was a wet dream and a vampire, dangerous female sexuality.
She then sat on a chair, as her legs swooped in large circles, opening and closing in continual exposure, insatiable (“keep your legs closed,” don’t steal my man,” “bitch” her voice hissed.) In a third scene, Ramirez posed standing, pole dancing without the pole. All the images were bad girls, women shamed and blamed, and the fantasies of men who fear female sexual power-- and of women who fear women’s sexual power. The dancing and visual images were striking, but it was a one-note idea in movement, and squandered too much for too narrow a message.
Oren Barnoy presented a piece whose title was a designed logo in place of a name (like the Artist formerly known as Prince.) His was also an exercise in a single idea, turned and examined over several scenes by two excellent dancers, Greg Zuccolo and the estimable Paul Hamilton, a force of nature who dominates a stage with every swirl of his arms. In Barnoy’s piece, the stage front was rotated so that the audience sat in two long rows along the colonnade that splits the stage area at Gibney. This stage didn’t have set boundaries.
In separate solos, Hamilton and Zuccolo swooped around the stage in energized movement, improvising around several thematic moves for each dancer. Zuccolo dipped his arms like wings, until one of his hands lightly swept the floor then it angled back up to shift his body in the opposite direction. Hamilton wove one arm under the other in an angle that echoed throughout the piece, than he grabbed huge chunks of air, extended his limbs and crossed and twisted his arms and body.
The score throbbed electric, and the harsh flourscent opening lights were made even more garish with bright overhead spotlights that, like the dancers, never let up. While one man danced, the other stood at an edge of the performing space, half watching, half catching his breath, but present for the other until it was time to change places. Occasionally, one would walk offstage through a simple doorway at the back, than re-enter, and saunter back into place before tearing into dance. The pressures of the movement, harsh lights and driving sound were relentless. The dancers’ sweat and panting were reminders of the work, as the audience was lulled by the unchanging drive.
After several rounds of the artists’ rotating solos, Zuccolo finally joined Hamilton to dance simultaneously – but apart. Their movement was still a personal interpretation of Barnoy’s roots and instruction, and though they rotated around the stage in a large circle as if partners, they were still separate. Perhaps that’s the best chance for connection, dancing around some similar ideas, in our own way, and hoping – occasionally – to be near another person trying to do the same.
Top photo: Naomi Elena Ramirez in "The Temptress, Sedutress, and Other Woman: Fictions of desire and responsibility." Photo © Scott Shaw.
Bottom photo: Paul Hamilton and Greg Zuccolo. Photo © Scott Shaw.
copyright © 2016 by Martha Sherman