“In the Cold Room”, “Bruised”, Parts of “Pohaku”
Christopher K. Morgan & Artists
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
April 7, 2017
by George Jackson
copyright © 2017 by George Jackson
Christopher Morgan’s choreography calls to mind Doris Humphrey’s dictum that all dances are too long. Not that I always concur with that sage from Midwest America. Seeing the Shades of “La Bayadere” descend to the stage along a ramp step by step by arabesque, I wish they would go on forever! Good ideas aren’t absent in works by Morgan. On this triple bill it was “In the Cold Room” which gave the greatest promise. Yet, after a while, its trio of nymphs or muses stubbornly stayed and stayed. If only Morgan had given his ideas a sense of form, of structure, but he may have just been free associating.
The heritage Morgan avows is Hawaiian. Nevertheless, his “Cold Room” of 2014 can be related to Greek mythology. Standing on the stage’s left is Apollo i.e., composer Wytold playing an electric cello. Three women in white move on a stage that, though fairly dark, is dappled here and there with light. Two of the women, Abby Farina and Colette Krogol, accompany each other closely whereas Tiffanie Carson’s forays seem freer, sometimes daringly so and in other instances with a solitary feeling. Much of the trio’s action starts from a pliant disposition of the body’s joints. Then, vectors of motion go out from the central axis into the surroundings. Morgan’s choreography uses light (designed by Brian S. Allard) as if it were water. The nymphs or muses step into pools of it on the stage floor or bathe in bright beams of it as if standing under waterfalls. Lovely! All three of the dancers seem drawn by Apollo’s music making. Yet as the women’s flexings and forays continued, and as Wytold’s fiddling went on and on, was there any true development? Even variations of the sound and of the motions had a repetitive effect until “Cold Room” finally shut down.
“Bruised”, also from 2014, seems a gender variant of “Cold Room”. There are two men, perhaps fauns, and again much of the movement starts from flexible stances. Often the men, Thomas L. Moore Jr. and Matt Reeves, direct their motion at each other, Making contact, the pair sometimes appears to be engaging in a wrestling match but on other occasions it tackles mutually supportive stunts. There was no direct interaction with Wytold’s playing. Even though “Bruised” was fairly brief and had a hint of an evolving relationship, a less even course of action might have made this duet more memorable.
For the 2016 “Pohaku”, Morgan’s Hawaiian heritage was a source. Nevertheless, Wytold’s music was based on a fugue by J.S. Bach. On this occasion, Morgan alternated passages of ceremonial, full dance and declamation, making a lengthy solo for himself. The hula dynamics had supple rhythms and some of the motion was directed into the body’s core. There were contrasting juxtapositions yet, once again, more structure within each compartment and perhaps a fusion would have made the material seem utterly alive and to be evolving.