Thursday, January 20, 2022

Dance Review: Deborah Colker – BRIGHT COLORS, TIGHT SPACES

Deborah Colker at City Center
Four women hang suspended from the arms of four men.  The men dangle, bent at the waist, over the tops of 12 foot walls. The women hold on, wrist to wrist, legs held at 90 degree angles, free arms outstretched, in flight…

Are You Fierce?  Become a Member of iDANZ Today . . . It's FREE! Colker’s 4 por 4 at City Center is visually stunning.  Gorgeously high-budget sets and incredibly talented dancers create such moments of pure eye candy that one is (almost) moved by the aesthetic itself.  However, popping visuals and physical prowess do not a dance show make, and Colker’s choreography lacked both the emotionality and the energy of movement that would have made this show truly spectacular.

In Corners, Colker opens with a clear presentation of of her dancer’s strength, skill and fearlessness.  Four free standing "corners," created out of diagonally asymmetrical 12 foot walls, form a semi circle facing outward.  In each corner is a girl with a swinging short dress and strappy heels.  The women gyrate and slap their legs around, hooking back attitudes around the edges of walls, walking feet-over-head as they hit inverted diagonal lines.  One by one, the men swing onto the sets, climbing up the women, hanging from the tops of the walls, and at one point, appearing out of the semi-darkness to stand Easter Island-like at the top of each corner… 12 or 15 feet above the stage they loom solidly above Colker’s sets, which because of the odd angles, seem to waver and disintegrate underneath them.  Colker’s talent for super human movement invention is huge (she just choreographed for Cirque du Soliel), but I could do without all the jazz-dance filler.

Deborah Colker 3The third piece, Some People, a kind of super-pop tribute to gender-queer sexuality, takes place against a floor and backdrop both painted with huge, semi-abstract faces, breasts and genitals.  The dancers, dressed in ultra-tight and brightly colored jeans and t-shirts hop and monkey around, miming make-outs, anal sex, and cunnilingus across the gender spectrum.  I appreciate this free-for all, but I’m sure why we are seeing it …  Are we suppose to laugh?  To be turned on? To question the repression of sexuality in normative cultural discourse?  Or, even, to think how lucky Brazilians are that they are allowed to be so sexually explicit…?  Maybe all of the above, but, unfortunately, I’m not moved at all.  I think it is because, although this piece is so visually impressive, the movement itself never went beyond mime and predictably slow jazz-reference pony-ing.  I wish I had been turned on, that would’ve been more fun.

Deborah Colker Lastly, Colker’s big effort, Vases, should have been amazing, and in some ways, it is.  100 vases stand at approximately 3 foot square intervals in rows and columns all over the City Center stage.  They are all white with blue designs and the sight of them under soft blue lighting creates some audible gasps.  The men crawl and flip through the rows of vases, sometimes rolling backwards on diagonals that allow them to travel between vases, sometimes lifting their hips over and around the top of a vase, grazing it as they fly by.  The women kick and turn, at one point executing coupe jetes over the vases, finding just the right height to land between them. The partnering here is pretty spectacular, men spinning and lifting women, bouncing them through the minefield, suspended lifts timed perfectly to create geometrical patterns.  I am literally on the edge of my seat at some points, but after the first few breath-holding moments, I continue to want more. I want to see the movement change, to get faster or slower, really huge or miniscule, or for the dancers to find some emotional reason for connecting with the movement itself.  Even when the vases are gradually floated out on flies that had descended from the ceiling (an easy metaphor for transcendence) I feel nothing but relief -for now, those poor dancers can really move.

And perhaps that is what I wanted all along.  I love seeing talented dancers do exactly what they’ve been told, but I’d rather watch someone, anyone, REALLY MOVE any day.

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Official Dance Review by Meghan Frederick
Performance:  Deborah Colker 4 por 4
Choreography:  Deborah Colker
Venue:  City Center, New York City
Show Date:  October 23, 2009
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