On Friday, November 16th I attended what appears to be the final series of performances at Joyce SoHo. The occasion? The winners and finalists of the 2012 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Dance. Friday’s performers included Fanny Ara (flamenco), Thang Dao’s pulsing musings on Edgar Allan Poe, Pontus Lidberg’s lyrically irresistible solo, and Alice Gosti’s Spaghetti Co. – Are you Still Hungry?
I also had the privilege of seeing the full version of Lidberg’s Within (Labyrinth Within) with Morphoses at The Joyce almost two weeks ago. His movement quality is water-like, flowing and dynamic. He performs breath-takingly slow elbow and handstands (of which I associate with a breaking vocabulary) so gracefully that every part of the action is pulled apart.
However, it was Alice Gosti’s dinner party gone haywire that most captivated me. The shock factor was higher than the other pieces as the performers were nestled inside four clear, plastic walls for a tent-like dining room within which they flung spaghetti, wine and tomatoes. Gosti and her dancers, Devin McDermott and Anh Nguyen, sustained a high level of tension throughout their tasks of setting plates, arranging the table, and serving food. The tension erupts and then abates, the movement phrases ranging from tableau scenes to athletic bursts. The dancers return to their original civil tasks again and again, only to lose control of their tightly held manners. Dressed in white short, strapless dresses, their hair done in pert Barbie-doll pony tails, they disregard their state of disarray with wine dripping down their faces and noodles hanging from their hems. There are elements of Mr. & Mrs. Smith sitting down to dinner in a kill-or-be-killed quandary, Stepford wives jealously guarding their stature, and the voyeurism of Big Brother. We watch all that happens in this strange little affair, peering through the dim light provided by the single bulb hanging above the table. Eventually, the lighting appliance is swung furiously round and round joining in the chaos. The women are familiar with each other and directly interact, but there is distance – much like those awkward holiday dinners some of us are about to encounter. The pecking order shifts, as does the advantage so the dancers engage in a constant power struggle. The dance enacts what many a stressful dinner of so-called friends has felt like, only not actualized. It was exhausting but I couldn’t pull myself away.
The Vilcek Foundation awards the Creative Promise Prize to recognize foreign born artists and scientists who have demonstrated exceptional achievement early in their careers.