A simulated black hole from NASA that Su Wen-Chi thought best illustrates her yet unnamed and unfinished work.
Dance is a play with gravity; and one that choreographer Su Wen-Chi is exploring on the level of a physicist.
The Taiwanese choreographer is going deep on the subject of gravity – its subtlety and its power – in her latest work-in-progress. Yet unnamed, it’s taking shape during a residency at the EMPAC at Rensselaer and rightly so. Much of what is developed on the Troy campus is scientific, academic and, of course, experimental. And while the work, as shown on Thursday evening, is clearly in its infancy, Su’s work offers some sparks of promising inspiration.
For one thing, her single dancer in the piece, a man named Adam (last name not given), actually dances. Anyone who is familiar with EMPAC knows that walking in a circle, crawling through a hoop or standing at a podium is often, annoyingly, deemed to be dance. Thus, I was well-pleased when I saw that Adam moved, and moved well.
In the opening section of five shown, the soloist is revealed by the flash of strobe lights that freezes him in various states of movement. He hops in arabesque and cartwheels his legs behind him. His arm shoots upwards, but the feeling is gentle, carefree. He doesn’t devour the space, he freely inhabits it, comfortable with the gravitation pull.
That section moves onto one in which ambient sounds hums while his limbs float upwards – above his body as if gravity no longer exists.
Music is added – at various speeds – and his solo becomes gestural as if demonstrating how to live or cope in the force field of our often taxing world.
The lighting design was spectacular, a whirlpool of dotted lights that left one seeing Adam tumbling through the universe. At one point, the audience is allowed to take the stage. The experience from there, with the lights and sound in the Goodman Studio rotating around the crowd, was intriguing. But equally fascinating was the view from the seats – with the audience in silhouette, they looked like aliens exploring an uncharted cosmos.
The only problem with the unfinished piece, and this was likely because it was in-progress, was Su. She kept stopping the show to explain what she was trying to do in each scene. And as much of what she was describing was beyond my comprehension, it was not helpful, only bothersome.
I prefer the dancing, the lights and even the unusual sounds. No narration needed.