navigating through time and space
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Arab Today, arab today
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Navigating Through Time and Space

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Navigating Through Time and Space

New York - Arabstoday

There’s a way that the distressed walls of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater resemble compressed layers of sediment: the exposed brick, the peeling paint, the rough plaster patches, everything seemingly crumbling like sheered-off rock exposed to the elements.I had not thought about this until Wednesday night, when John Jasperse’s “Canyon” had its New York premiere as part of the Next Wave Festival. If you’re going to pin a complex, nonverbal creation to just one word, you could do a lot worse than this title, which is both specific and open enough to create the context and space in which Mr. Jasperse’s nonnarrative dance can do its intuitive work.The mood is further set by a marvelous team of collaborators. James Clotfelter’s lighting design suggests shifts of weather and time, both subtle and sweeping. Hahn Rowe’s score, performed live onstage by Mr. Rowe and three other musicians, is textural and expansive, yielding moment-by-moment interest as well as a larger emotional thrust.And Tony Orrico’s striking visual design seems at once futuristic and left over. Skeins of yellow and orange neon tape run jaggedly across the white-and-black stage, spilling up the walls and along the floor out of the theater like tracings of a distant culture, maybe an alien one. Orange flags sit atop slender, movable poles, like something you might see on a golf course. You think of suburban luxury and the desert yawning just beyond it.Into this yawning space come the dancers. Mr. Jasperse is joined by Lindsay Clark, Erin Cornell, Kennis Hawkins, Burr Johnson and James McGinn, who are also credited as collaborators. They are fine ones, sophisticated and poetic. The opening minutes of “Canyon” are full and rushing, the dancers unfurling across the stage in buoyant, looping trajectories, marked by fast jumps and presentational, balletic extensions. You think of water and wind snaking through rock.Soon enough these elements settle on the canyon floor. (The Harvey’s arenalike architecture enhances this idea.) And here the work begins to frustrate, its restless eddies of movement pooling into too-familiar pockets.Mr. Jasperse has a keen eye for detail and composition; the subtle internal logic of his choreography tends to drive both sense and sensibility in his dances. But in “Canyon” that logic often feels kept at bay. There are long stretches in which loosely repetitive, perhaps even improvisational structures seem to dominate. The dancers play with ways of being off balance and generally disoriented. Finely wrought balances dissolve into loose spirals. Phrases anchor briefly on precisely calibrated poses and then drift away. Partnering sequences trail off.These are smart artists, and it is a pleasure to watch them navigate. But still, they feel underused in this material, almost adrift.That is perhaps the point. There are moments in which the work seems like an extended dream sequence, with Mr. Jasperse as the somnambulist. In one striking moment the dancers arrange themselves in a loose line, extending out into the audience. Mr. Jasperse stands a few feet up one aisle, with eyes closed, and then raises his arms as if to command movement.And yet he’s no Svengali. The forces manipulating these individuals often appear to be beyond their knowing. One of the most striking theatrical moments occurs when four of the dancers stand still, gazing out and up as if surveying a vast sky. Overhead an imposing grid of lights shifts its angle, seeming like nothing more than a spaceship coming for its cargo.Maybe this cargo is the white cube on wheels that moves across the stage mysteriously during the show, leaving more tape tracings in its wake. (Its motor is Mr. Orrico; the audience gets only glimpses of his feet.) Or maybe not; it seems silly to cast about for narrative threads in the work of a choreographer like Mr. Jasperse, whose structures tend to build their own enigmatic meanings. I kept waiting for this meaning to reveal itself. But “Canyon” holds its secrets too well.

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