What happened to Kaatsbaan?
Gemma Bond's "The Go Between" was danced by Kyra Coco and Finnian Carmeci at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park. (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor)
I’m a dance critic. I review dance, not the venues they are presented in.
But I can’t contemplate the marvelous Limon Dance Company who performed a challenging program with American Ballet Theatre Studio Company on Saturday night, until I put down my distressing thoughts on Kaatsbaan Cultural Park.
The venue, a decades-old incubator devoted to dance, has changed. It’s changed a lot. And not for the better.
Sometime during the early months of 2020, its co-founders, Greg Cary and his late husband Bentley Roton, who made the then Kaatbaan International Dance Center, their lives’ work, were ousted by the board. The reason is unclear.
But since then, not only has the name of the venue changed but so too in how it presents dance -- outside only – a baffling move as Cary and Roton built an intimate 160-seat, well-equipped black-box theater.
Being outside was a problem on Saturday night as the Hudson Valley temperatures hovered in the low 60s and upper 50s. And it raining. It was no night to sit outside in an open meadow. It was no night for dancers to be performing on an open-air stage.
Now a lot of venues are outdoors, which is usually lovely in the summer months. Think Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Jacob’s Pillow. In Saratoga, the show can go on in the rain and patrons who bought lawn tickets to dance and classical music performances are often invited inside the amphitheater. At Jacob’s Pillow, they cancel shows when it rains on their outdoor stage.
Then there are places like PS/21 in Chatham. For years, dancers performed under a tent, similar to the one now at Kaatsbaan. But patrons were also under the tent, which help stopped some of the rain from inundating the stage.
Moreover, at both Jacob’s Pillow and PS/21, seats are provided. Not at Kaatsbaan. Audiences must bring their own chairs or blankets, which they must haul about a half mile to the stage. There are golf carts that can give ticket holders, many who are seniors, a bumpy ride down to the stage located in one of the meadows within its 153-acre complex.
Once there, ticket holders can’t just plop down their chairs. They are divided into premium payers, $65 on Saturday night, or $45 general admission patrons who sit farther back. The only amenities for the audience are sales of Millbrook wine, snacks and Kaatsbaan swag. That’s fine, but they could consider some comforts. For example, PS/21 always supplied its patrons blankets on chilly nights.
In the fine weather, I’m sure it is grand. But on Saturday night, it was miserable for all. There was a delay to the start to towel down the stage. Once the dancers finally took to the boards, there was another delay after a rained heavily during George Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.” Audiences scrambled as the dancers kept going in this technically taxing ballet, to their own detriment as it’s dangerous to dance on a wet stage.
The program also had to be cut because darkness was approaching and there is no lighting to guide audiences along the paths back to the parking lot.
This is all a shame as both the Limon Dance and the ABT Studio Company, a feeder to the main American Ballet Theatre, are wonderful.
For example, the versatile Savannah Spratt was commanding in company Artistic Director Jose Limon’s “Chaconne” to Bach and delicate and vulnerable as the Moor’s wife in his “The Moor’s Pavane,” the night’s highlight. Based on Shakespeare's "Othello," the dance, to music by Henry Purcell, centers on the deception and betrayal that ends in death. Eric Parra as the Moor and Joey Columbus as his conniving friend oozed a toxic intensity that cut through the surrounding misty air. The cold air was fitting.
The Studio Company’s highlight was a divine rendering of Kenneth McMillian’s gentle “Concerto” pas de deux with dancers Kyra Coco and Finnian Carmeci. Unlike many young dancers who are concerned about getting the steps right, they emoted a connection underneath the slow, simmering dance to Shostakovich that was beautiful.
They deserve better and so do Kaatsbaan audiences.
Balanchine: Classicism undone
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns danced the bewitched swan in George Balanchine's "Swan Lake" on Sunday afternoon.
Only the greatest classicist can seize a master work and refashioned it into something that honors its gravatis and preciousness while successfully preserving it core. It requires a deep knowledge of every aspect of work to reassemble it parts, strip away its sluff and leave only its essence for savoring.
That's what the late George Balanchine, one of the 20th century most important ballet choreographers, did with Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." In his hands, the three act ballet has been condensed, some might say crammed as it feels so fleeting, into a 35-minute ballet. He stripped away carousing courtiers, a marriage-minded mother, a pack of princesses and the deceptive other woman.
What is left is an unrequited love-story -- a prince who falls desperately in love with an enchanted swan whom he can never fully embrace.
On Sunday at Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet presented his version, which also included a bevy of black swan, rather than the typical white ones. Balanchine gave them plenty to do, including borrowing music from the third act's waltz and pas de neuf and bestowing it the swans, led by the commanding Megan LeCrone and Emma von Enck, who soared through it all.
The company adagio master, Sara Mearns, portrayed the swan queen with tenderness, extending every note of the music through each finger tips. She caressed the arm of her her beloved prince Tyler Angle who encircled her again and again. It made one believe in this improbable love.
Mearns did appears to struggle a bit on some of the speedier pointe work, but still, she was perfect for the romantic role -- gorgeous, generous and sparkling. She left the audience aching for more.
Still, I wish Balanchine didn't toy with the classic. The haunting musical theme elicits goose bumps and the melodies are brilliant, ranging from playful to sinister. And it made me long to see more.
Still, if anyone was to mettle with a classic, it could only be Balanchine, the choreographic craftsman with a cleared-eye vision and plan to execute it.
"Swan Lake" was preceded by Alexei Ratmansky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," a work in which 10 dancers become as much of an art exhibition as the Wassily Kandinsky paintings that made up its backdrop. The 2014 ballet to music by Modest Mussorgsky is one that is clever in its structure, but also nerve-wracking as some of the lifts appeared dangerous. At times, I thought some women would be dropped on their heads as a few sections looked a tad underrehearsed.
Regardless, Andrew Veyette was most enjoyable. He was fierce, attacking the movement as if he planned on crushing it -- and indeed he did -- keeping all eyes trained on him. He was a standout among the men in "Promenade."
Pianist Susan Walters accompanied them. She was perfection, as always.
Emily Ginter, standing, with Laura Teeter of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company. (Photo by Gary Gold)
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company’s annual spring concert at The Egg in Albany was a special one – not just because this well-respected local ensemble premiered it latest, a collaboration with artist Calvin Grimm, but because one of Sinopoli’s most beloved dancers, Laura Teeter, took her final bow.
A 19-year veteran of the company, Teeter was one of the finest interpreter of Sinopoli’s rather cerebral dances. Teeter poured in emotion into everything, humanizing the choreographer’s sometimes elusive explorations into music and art. She was also a beautiful dancer whose form was luscious, at times, silky, at others, sassy, but always generous and honest.
She was the vessel that brought the audience in.
And in celebration of Teeter, Sinopoli created a program of four works, all of which featured her – an exhausting feat and final gift to her fans.
The centerpiece of the evening was the premiere of Sinopoli’s “Journey” with artist and environmentalist Grimm. Five of his paintings, projected as a backdrop for the dance, expressed nature breaking through and then dissolving. Six dancers, the entire ensemble, responded to the abstractions to otherworldly and hypnotic music titled “Falling Out of Time/A Tone Poem in Voices” by Osvaldo Golijov.
The work began boldly with dancers tearing about, seeking survival. The dancers soon discover each other – responding and rolling around on the floor, seemingly part of the earth. As paintings melt into the background and a new one appears, a life cycle of blooming and decaying comes to the fore. The dancers reflect that by emphasizing the force and fire behind nature. They also form patterns that echo those inherent in nature, basically reminding us that we are all connected.
“Journey,” like many Sinopoli works, is multi-layered and requires several viewings to take it all in. Still, it’s clear she and Grimm were suggesting our lives journeys are like and linked to nature.
The evening opened with “Ghostly Interlace,” a 2021 duet with Teeter and Emily Gunter. The piece, to another Golijov composition, this time cello and marimba, has the pair shadowing and absorbing each other’s movement. The duet, that starts simply with a walk and ends with the two resting upon each other, is like watching an afterimage form and reform. It was fascinating.
My favorite part of the evening, however, was the revival of “Brink,” a group work from 2009, in which Sinopoli lets her hair down and simply moves her dancers to the music of jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas. With hips swaying, fingers wagging and big bold kicks, the dancers delightfully sashay to the music. It’s freeing, fun and one of Sinopoli’s best works.
The evening also including “Balancing on the Head of a Pin” from 2023. The work’s industrial feel has five dancers contracting and expanding on a dystopian world to music by Julian Brink.
And every step of the way, Teeter held sway. She will be missed.
Noche Flamenco performed "Searching for Goya" on Saturday at Williams College. (Photo by Jesse Rodkin)
In a world of dissent, anxiety and turmoil, Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenco’s “Searching for Goya” is timely.
Yes, the evening-length piece is based on Francisco’s Goya’s more than 200-year-old print series “Disaster of War.” But the work with the amazing talented ensemble of flamenco artists, as assembled by director and choreographer Martin Santangelo, couldn’t be more contemporary; and more haunting.
“Searching for Goya,” as seen in a preview version on Saturday night at Williams College, is an eight-part creation. And while each depiction is not equal in power to touch an audience, the majority did with its raw images of war’s ravages – mainly death and poverty.
The evening began with the engaging voice of singer Manuel Gago who called everyone to attention. Alone on a darkened stage, his voice cut through distractions. He was the commander who made way for all that followed – the rage and tenderness of a trio of flamenco dancers, including the bold Barrio, who were complemented by a scintillating ensemble of guitars, singers and a percussionist David “Chupete” Rodriguez who fingered the castanets like no other.
The goal of the work was to recreate what Goya saw, and subsequently drew, during the conflicts between Spain and Napoleon’s France. The prints are considered his protest against the violence.
An anti-war message was not obvious in “Searching for Goya,” but what was is this sense of stolen unity and harmony. In the early scenes, one at the town plaza in which the people sing together followed up by a flirtatious solo featuring Marina Elana with fan and parasol, offered up a vision of community that was sweet and pleasing.
Then comes Carmina Cortes who sings Bulerias. To the non-Spanish speaking person, like myself, Cortes’ big voice was scolding and warning. The soothsayer in green gown, she pointed a finger at the audience, the society complicit in the mess.
A searing solo with dancer Pablo Fraile, accompanied by guitarist Eugenio Iglesias, followed. It expressed the stalwart action that machismo requires. Fraile was a rod, strong, gritty and resolute.
The one of the most memorable moments came from Rodriguez who fingers stormed over the castanets as a barefooted and shrouded woman slowly moved across the stage in the most direct recreation of a Goya print, “The Beds of Death.”
Even more potent was Barrio in her final face-off with death in “Asomandose.” In the dance, accompanied by the musical ensemble, Barrio, dressed in black, drew the audience in with her full-body soliloquy. Her rapid-fired footwork as she flung her body forward and back, up and down, portrayed a fear and anger at all that took place.
She left the audience breathless and stunned by her honesty and intensity.
Bravo Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenco.
Paul Taylor Dance Company in "A Field of Grass," which protrayed the dark and light of the 1960s counterculture.
Take a moment in time or a culture phenomenon and in 30 minutes the late choreographer Paul Taylor could explain it all – its allure, its intoxications and its dangers. And he does it with not only engaging visual designs, but with an ensemble cast of dancers who capture the imagination.
This wonderful company, one of the top contemporary dance companies in the world, was all that on Saturday night at The Egg. In a program of three works, the uplifting “Arden Court,” the schizophrenic “A Field of Grass” and the dramatic “Piazzolla Caldera,” it was clear that Taylor’s genius as one of America’s greatest dancemakers remains secure.
The evening opened with the lofty “Arden Court,” an inspirational opener to any Taylor display. To baroque symphonies by William Boyce, the dancers frolicked across the stage, first gliding like casual strollers in park and then jumping and cartwheeling as if they themselves were flora popping straight up from the ground. The non-stop movement ended with a high-speed finale where the women are tumbling between the men and the men are eating up space, leaping and rolling across the stage as the lights dimmed, signaling the end.
The dancers wore costumes that looked to be sprinkled with petals and it was all overseen by a pink rose, the symbol of grace and gratitude. It was an enchanting spray of movement and jubilation.
The remainder of the program, however, revealed Taylor’s clear-eyed take of all things including the dark sides of 1960s utopian counterculture in “A Field of Grass” and tango obsession in “Piazzolla Caldera.”
“A Field of Grass,” to songs by Harry Nilsson, began with one of my favorite Taylor dancers, Alex Clayton, puffing on a marijuana cigarette and rolling about to “Mother Nature’s Son.” The contented dance progressed to an orgasmic ensemble section led by Christina Lynch Markham, hair down and flying, and then to an optimistic duet with Clayton and Eran Brugge playfully skipping around to “I Guess the Lord Must be in New York City.”
The idyllic life halted to the song “Spaceman,” in which the horrors of drug addiction was portrayed by a convulsing Clayton. However, Taylor brought the audience back to feeling good, sweet attitude with “The Puppy Song.”
“Piazzolla Caldera,” to tango standards by Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburski, distilled the aggressive, macho side of the Argentinian dance with a daring face-off between men and women that was more a bullfight than a dance of passion. The sharpness and precision was stark and sexualized, leading to a victimizing pile-on of Jada Pearman’s character.
It was so pulsating and real that one could not look away. It was classic Taylor. And we are all grateful for that.
New York Theatre Ballet in "Toulouse's Dream"
For years, New York Theatre Ballet has delighted countless children at The Egg with their many small but decorative story ballets for children – “Cinderella,” “Peter and the Wolf” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
The chamber ballet has also been preserving the art form’s important historic works – those by Antony Tudor, Agnes DeMille and, as seen once again at The Egg on Friday night, Jerome Robbins. Yet now the company, under the direction of its former star dancer Steven Melendez is expanding its realm by commissioning new works. And those pieces, one by illusionists Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer and a second by American Ballet Theatre Principal James Whiteside, are freeing the dancers from the pressures of getting "history right." They are now dancers who can explore their own moment in time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that NYTB is conserving the works of important, long past choreographers. Those pieces are vital to understanding the history and the ultimate direction the craft has taken. But nothing is more interesting, to audiences and artists, than the new.
That was evident in Bridgman and Packer’s “Toulouse’s Dream," a work that drifted audiences and dancers into the post-Impressionist world of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, an artist who captured the allure of burlesque nightlife in Paris. Bridgman and Packer did this, as they are wont to do, by enveloping the dancers in video imagery. We see the dancers themselves, both lifesize and in miniature, as well as moving reflections of their actions. The multiple of dancers, real and imaginary, in pantaloons, petticoats and bustiers, created a universe where they sashayed with and around themselves.
A figure dressed in a top hat and coat directed their movement with his cane, obviously Toulouse-Lautrec, as the dancers swirled in a whirling cauldron of activity. At one point, they lifted the figure, raising him up to become part of the kaleidoscopic color and energy radiating from the floor. It was captivating.
Moreover, the electronic music by composer Martha Mooke was performed live with Mooke herself appearing on violin.
This work has legs and I hope to see it again.
Whiteside’s “Mamborama” was the night’s charming closer that exaggerated popular Cuban music. With a cast of dancers in flashy Latin ballroom garb – sequins bodices and short fringed shirts included – they shimmied and strutted across the floor accenting every bombastic punch in the music with a flick of their hands or a kick of their legs.
They became the music, thus the dance. They owned it like they don’t own the artifacts of lost dances. That was clear with the night’s opener – Robbins’ “Septet.” To music by Igor Stravinsky, the piece is one of those in which Robbins appears to be echoing George Balanchine – specifically his “Apollo.” This is always a bad idea as one’s own voice carries authenticity, not dull falsehoods.
Regardless, on the surface, one could say “Septet” was well-crafted and the dancers did do it justice. However, I would have preferred to see a Robbins work that was not a nod to another, one that offered up Robbins as he was – an urban choreographer who understood people as they were, not as they were idealized by another.
Finally, Bridgman/Packer offered up an excerpt of optical trickery in “Under the Skin,” a video extravaganza that has been a repertory staple for years, which is always a pleasure to see.
ODC/Dance offered up a powerful performance at UAlbany's Performing Arts Center on Friday night. (Photo by RJ Muna)
There are so many things that make ODC/Dance special. Founder and Artistic Director Brenda Way embraces the visions of other dance makers to play with her fine ensemble of 10. Those dancers, all finely sculpted creatures that embody fierceness and beauty, are steeped into the artistry, helping us make metaphorical sense of this increasingly aggressive, fearful and complex world.
Unfortunately, ODC/Dance, based in San Francisco, has not been seen in the Capital Region for quite some time. Thus, it was with great pleasure to see their return at the University of Albany on Friday night in a program that reminded all why this nearly 50-year-old contemporary dance ensemble (that’s major longevity in the modern dance realm) continues to thrive.
Part of their appeal is a theme I saw repeated in the three of four works and in the premiere of a piece for 22 Skidmore College dance students. It’s the juxtaposition of a duo with an ensemble – emphasizing that even in our most intimate and shielded moments the world still hovers and influences.
This was amplified in an excerpt from “The Velocity of Winter,” the dance for the students. As choreographed by Way and guest choreographer Dexandro Montalvo during a two-week residency at the college, the piece was menacing. The dancers, as whipped up by an interloping conductor (Erika Pujic), became a storm that swirled around couples that were pulled together and torn apart. The power of all the dancers, all in black, upped the energy and gave the feeling of a murder of crows descending. It was powerful. The work can be viewed in full on Sunday at Skidmore.
Montalvo, who has worked in a variety of dance styles including ballet and pop music, obviously has a lot to say. His “Impulse” was my favorite on the bill. Four female dancers moved from one end of the stage to the next in a demanding displayed that showed off their strength, versatility and commanding presence. Set to a percussive score by Else and Miskate, they dominated and devoured the eye.
ODC/Dance also presented a sweet duet with Rachel Furst and Ryan Rouland Smith. Set to music by Teiji Ito and Steve Reich, the dance explored at once tentative and then full out conversation between a couple. Wearing tap shoes at the start, the two sent rhythmic signals to each other, until their courtship became full-on physical, no tap shoes needed. It was fun, nonstop and delightful.
Way’s “Triangulating Euclid” was beautiful. While mathematics was referenced, the dance to music by Shubert, felt like a spiritual journey with couples. In sheer white tops, they peacefully rotate around each other, sometimes upside down. It was serene and lovely – and perhaps a homage to the magical order numbers offered.
Finally, Way’s “Unintended Consequences: A Meditation,” to music by Laurie Anderson, brought the audience back to reality. The music spoke of the mundaneness of the world and how it can slip us into not seeing the subtle changes around us.
The dancers, dressed in green as if they were indoctrinated into an army, were oblivious to the changes as one man stands off to the side alone, disenfranchised. But Way helps us to see. Thanks to her, we will not be caught unaware.
"Dancing with the Stars" stars razzle-dazzled on Sunday night at Proctors in Schenectady.
Everyone knows the real stars in “Dancing with the Stars” are the professionals – those flashy, sometimes sharp, sometimes sensual dancers who dole out so much wit and sass that audience can’t help but be blinded by razzle-dazzle.
And eight of those stars – donning sequins, studs and sometimes very little -- were fully illuminated and fully intoxicating on Sunday night at Proctors.
The road show, the spin-off the long-running ABC series, hits the boards for a one-nighter that sent audiences screeching and swooning over their speedy salsas, breezy waltzes and stabbing tangos. These mavens of ballroom styles – everything from the samba to the fox trot – glided, swirled and hopped with ease and perfection. And they did it with so much style in costumes that dripped elegance and/or sex appeal that even those who think the show was kitschy can’t avert their eyes.
I’m not a fan of the show. But I myself was swept into the glitter and glitz, mainly because these dancers – as led by Emma Slater – were simply top-notch movers. They seamlessly blended styles in brief but breathy numbers set to everything from standards to disco to pop. The scenes from one snappy dance to the next were cut so quickly, there was not time to be bored. This crew -- for their stamina alone -- was impressive.
Slater was the headliner along with one of the 31st season’s actual “stars,” Gabby Windey. Like most the stars on “Dancing with the Stars,” she is not an A-listers. A quick Google search found that Windey appeared on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” She was also a former Denver Bronco’s cheerleaders, who alone, looked cute and competent. In the arms of Alan Bersten, she floated across the floor.
But as soon as the real dancers gathered around her, there was no comparison – this group that included Brandon Armstrong, Sasha Farber, Gleb Savchenko and Britt Stewart, were versatile, flawless and most of all, humorously entertaining.
The standout was Alexis Warr who could do it all. She not only hit all the right moves in ballroom, but in modern dance and acrobatic. She was cast in number after number, clearly the show’s workhorse, performing flips, cartwheels and all the barefoot lyrical numbers that found her racing down smoky staircases in flowing gowns into the arms of smitten suitors.
Clearly “Dancing with the Stars” does not mind cliches. And neither does its doting fans, mostly women, who were rewarded with showers of streamers that rained down on them.
I didn’t mind either because the dancing was fine.
Kayla Xu presents ballerina Lauren Lovette with a bouquet at the end of Northeast Ballet's "The Nutcracker" at Proctors.
‘Tis the season for “The Nutcracker” and there was none better locally than Northeast Ballet’s rendering of the holiday classic.
There were many reasons, but the most convincing one was the Schenectady ensemble’s guest stars that this year included ballerina Lauren Lovette and New York City Ballet Principal Taylor Stanley. These two, as the Sugarplum and her Cavalier, were delightful to behold on Sunday afternoon at Proctors – inspiring both the Christmas spirit and awe of their inimitable style.
Lovette, though technically now retired from City Ballet, was charming as always, throwing her whole self into the role as queen of the Land of Sweets with her unflappable gusto. Stanley, who is among today’s greatest dancers, proved his versatility in this classical role. While known for his prowess in contemporary parts, often as a soloist, his gracious gentility and depth, which is always present, shined.
But it wasn’t just these two. Artistic Director Darlene Myers engaged a host of dazzling artists including the acrobatic Melody Rose and Tyler Stewart in the Arabian divertissement and high-flyers Darko Borso and Petro Pitula in the Ukrainian dance. Also, light and lovely on their feet were Luigi Crispino and Luciana Paris in the Snow pas de deux.
It has been years since I have seen Northeast’s version of the popular Tchaikovsky ballet and perhaps what struck me the most was how well the local student dancers looked. Myers has honed them into a fine, tight group with dancers who beautifully and adeptly led the Waltz of the Flowers (Payton Casey), the Snow Pas (Macy Swicz) and Marzipan (Millie Ellenbogen).
Most everything about this “Nutcracker” was enjoyable. The costumes in the first act party, where Clara, danced joyously by Kayla Xu, was introduced to the audience, were appropriately colorful and sparkly. The mice were adorably menacing and the Nutcracker’s cheese camouflaged cannon was a humorous touch.
Of course, Mother Ginger and her brood who lives under her skirt was also a highlight, with audiences clapping along to the music.
There was almost nothing to not like – except for those awkward lifts between the Nutcracker, danced with commitment by Robert Titsworth, and Clara that can be cringeworthy as they never appeared smooth.
Regardless, Northeast Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” left audience skipping happily into the holidays.
"Serpentine" is two-hour solo for a naked woman who slides, twists and slams her body along an oily floor.
A naked woman, a floor of glistening with oil and two hours of repetitive movement. That’s what Daina Ashbee’s “Serpentine” entails.
As performed in the lobby at Rensselaer’s EMPAC on Friday night, the show is hardly entertaining. Rather it’s a mediation for the solo artists – in this case Greys Vecchionacce – to repeatedly indulge in sloth-like and snake-like slides, twists and violent body slams across the floor.
It’s the kind of piece that makes one uncomfortable, to want to look away, to beg for it to end. But as the audience sits at the edges of the stages – a sort of runway for Vecchionacce’s journey – there is no escape. At the end of each section – repeated four times – she ends face down with her face planted into the floor, her head just inches from the feet of her viewers.
She then arises and stares into the eyes of those sitting closest to her. And then she does it to every audience member there – slowly walking the aisles – facing off with each and every one.
But that’s the end of the section. “Serpentine,” with its eerie electronic organ score by Jean-Francois Bloudin, begins with the dancer on the floor with her legs and arms folded under her chest. The only thing exposed is her back and her head.
The lights start off as bright, only dimming at the end of each repeated section. First one leg slides from underneath her frame, then another. She lifts her head to one side and stares at the audience. Then she lifts it to the other side and does the same. Her arms emerge. She briefly rises on her wrists and then she draws them out straight over her head, with her fingers reaching out to something unseen.
She rotates onto her back, crawls, slides down flat and eventually undulates like an inchworm, advancing to the other end of the slick stage. Most disturbing is her heaves and calls as she slaps her body down onto the floor. At times, it’s unbearable to watch and hear.
Then after she rises and stares into faces with her own somber eyes, she returns to the other end of the stage and does it all over again and again and again. The only change is the lights slowly darkened. And as they dim, the floor reflects her Vecchionacce’s body, deepening the visual impact.
The piece, though I would not want to see it again, has me thinking about the Biblical seduction of Adam and Eve. They are naked and content and then the serpent lures them to indulge in the forbidden fruit. Afterwards, the two are ashamed and banished from the Garden of Eden.
Is Vecchionacce Eve or the serpent? Or are we? Or am I just trying to impose meaning on something that has none.
One thing is for certain, “Serpentine” is memorable, an experience that is not meant to be enjoyed, but endured.