Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dance Review: Ballet Preljocaj’s "Empty Moves" at BAM

Ballet Preljocaj, photography by Julieta Cervantes“Why?” This is the continuous thought running through my head while watching Ballet Preljocaj perform Angelin Preljocaj’s Empty Moves (parts I & II) at BAM.  The piece, choreographed to John Cage’s 1977 speech Empty Words, which was recorded in Milan before a vocal and rambunctious crowd, sets a standard for contemporary choreographers.  Like abstract artwork, the 63-minute piece of arbitrary movement and Cage’s syllabic, unrecognizable pronunciation of words presents an enigma for the audience to decode.

The costumes, reminiscent of a disco roller rink party, expose the dancers’ liquid lines and dynamic quality of movement.  However, I ask, “Why this choice of retro neon color shirts and shorts that would have been worn by Punky Brewster?”

Are You a DANCER?  Join iDANZ Today!The dancers effortlessly transfer from position to position, but reveal no emotion; their faces remain frozen.  At one moment, the two girls toboggan over a man towards the audience and smile.  Again, I ask, “Why?  Why is that the only moment of expression?”

Randomly, the two men repeatedly stand on their heads, the women push their elbows in the men’s eyes and mouths, and in one moment the couples reach into their partners mouths.  I wonder, “Why, what is Preljocaj’s intention?”

As I continue to watch Empty Moves, the answer to my question is that Preljocaj just feels like it, and, in the moment, the arbitrary step appears to be the perfect piece to fit the puzzle.  Half way through the piece a dancer leaves the stage to get a drink of water and brings the Poland Spring bottle to other dancers on stage.  At that moment, the dancers are thirsty and drinking water is a necessary part of the choreography.  Like the simple black dress hanging in the closest, sometimes the least complicated and least contrived things are the most beautiful.

Ballet Preljocaj, photography by Julieta CervantesFor a dancer, the process of learning and performing a piece with such arbitration presents a huge challenge. As a dancer you rely on the music to rescue you from the “oh crap” moments that occur when the choreography slips away from the body; however, the four dancers Favrizio Clemente, Gaelle Chappaz, Julien Thibault, and Yurie Tsugawa, impress with their flawless performance.  They dance with a connective energy that mesmerizes the eyes for the entire 63 minutes. Even though subdued and unremarkable, the choreography perplexes the conception of entertainment and disproves the idea that the flashy choreography seen on So You Think You Can Dance is the future of performance art. 

In a poignant moment, the four dancers interlock themselves lying in a straight line across the stage.  Who knew that something as simple as this would be as impressive as the Texas Rangers beating the Yankees to play in the World Series?

Anglein Preljocaj and his company are the epitome of innovation and hopefully will inspire more artists to trust their instincts and escape conformity like Preljocaj has done in Empty Moves (parts I & II).

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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Katherine Gibson
Performance:  Ballet Preljocaj
Venue:  BAM, Brooklyn, NY
Show Date:  Friday, October 29, 2010

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