Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Dance Review: Carrie Ahern at the Brooklyn Lyceum

Carrie Ahern Dance, Kelly Hayes, Donna Costello by Julie LembergerTheories about creation tend to take one of two routes, either there was always something, or, before there was, there was not. Sensate, Carrie Ahern’s new work at the Brooklyn Lyceum, speaks strongly for the first of these ideas.

Walking into Ahern’s version of the Brooklyn Lyceum is stepping into a world that has always been.  Ahern structures Sensate like an installation; audience members arrive and leave at any point during a three hour period. One walks into the performance space with no program, only the instructions to move around the space at any point, to sit anywhere, and to get as close to the dancers as one would like.

There being no discernible beginning or end to this dance, one is struck by various impressions which overlap and overwhelm one another.  First, two women in rags, one in very short shorts and the other in a long skirt. They run at one another, pushing each other to the ground, the skirted one gains the upper hand and folds her partner into a ball, then kneads her like dough as she climbs to kneel on top.  On a catwalk in the back of the space, a woman in a long dress, her face to the corner, a man, opposite her with hands curled like fiddleheads, walking very slowly, a woman’s bloody knees as she hangs, upside down, against the wall…

Have Something to Say? Join Today!Then, one notices the audience members. Stage lights glint off glasses, footsteps add to the atmospheric score as people shift. There aren’t very many people there, but this creates an interesting dynamic in itself.  You hear something, you turn, and you don’t know whether to expect an audience member or another dancer, appearing out of the woodwork.

Each viewer has a different experience of this work but, from my perspective, the strongest section of this dance is Donna Costello’s arresting solo, performed in a smaller space adjacent to, and above the main room, separated from it by a plane of glass.  Sitting on the catwalk, I can watch Costello shake and fall, punctuating her destructive movement with moments of "dance" moves.  She hops backward repeatedly, waving her arms in front of her face then steps forward and completes three attitude leg raises, front, side, back, bending her torso towards her raised knee.  From my viewpoint, Costello is seen through the plane of glass and the criss-crossed strips of marley, lain onto the bare plywood floor in the main room, are reflected over her body.  As the dance continues in the room where I am sitting, the dancers seem to move over her, worlds colliding, but taking no notice.

Carrie Ahern Dance, Photography by Julie LembergerFinally, I shift to watch the dance from this smaller room and am involved more than expected.  I am actually hit by the dancer performing here as she rushes by. Her dance is violent, with swinging, jabbing arms, and even before she slams into my legs, I am afraid she is going to punch me.  Yikes!  Luckily she doesn’t.

In this room, I am also illuminated as to the construction of the sparse, apocalyptic score we have been hearing all night.  Anne Hege is singing, live, into a contraption that seems to be made of balsa wood, tape players and a Mac computer.  As she sings she manipulates the tape players and several feet of the actual tape, with the help of an assistant, to distort and loop her voice.  It is quite impressive.

At some point during this last solo, I realize the dance is about to repeat and this knowledge urges me to step out and end my experience.  I realize, on the walk home that I am slightly disappointed now that I know it just starts all over.  I realize, rather than watching the creation of the universe, we are watching what is left after the world has ended.  Sensate is disturbing.

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Official Dance Review by Meghan Frederick
Performance:  Sensate
Choreography:  Carrie Ahern
Venue:  Brooklyn Lyceum
Show Date:  November 21, 2009 

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