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"Inhabit" by Lingo
Photo courtesy ofLingo.
Lingo Dance Theatre
Joyce SoHo, 155 Mercer Street, SoHo
January 13, 14, and 17-19, 2008, 8 p.m., $25
Tickets: (212) 352-3101 or www.joyce.org
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, January 14, 2008
Lingo made a dance performance resemble a party. Well, sort of. You could also say that, in "Inhabit," this Seattle troupe, directed by KT Niehoff, made a dance performance emerge out of a party.
Audiences entering the Joyce SoHo were greeted with slightly self-conscious, but never annoyingly forced, jollity by company members who led them into the theater, from which the usual rows of seats had been removed. Instead, chairs were scattered along the walls and stuck in some of the space's corners. Spectators could sit where they pleased and move about and change positions during the piece, although comparatively few did so on Jan. 13 when I attended. Spectators were also free to sample the fare at a wine bar and a snack buffet (grape leaves, cold cuts, cheeses, that sort of stuff). "Inhabit" was appropriately subtitled "a social art feast."
Although the work's score was credited to Sarah Murát, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was playing when spectators arrived. But that was not totally surprising, for hosts sometimes choose the most unlikely background music for parties. The performers proposed toasts to art and community, Beethoven gave way to perky, but not insistent, music, and Bianca Cabrera, Oscar Gutierrez, Jessica Jobaris, and Aaron Swartzman, who created the work with Niehoff, got the dancing and the party underway.
The dancing became amiable kinetic conversations, with fluid, easygoing athletic motions, including headstands and shoulder stands. Whatever their backgrounds may have been, these dancers obviously came from a dance scene that had witnessed the rise of contact improvisation (although one performer told me later that approximately 70 per cent of the show is totally set). The dancers responded well to one another. Occasionally, they invited spectators to change seats and even guided a few to new locations. Even though performers shook hands vigorously with some dancegoers, this was not one of those dreaded interactive productions in which, as Misha Berson wrote in a "Seattle Times" article that was part of the press kit, you may find yourself "attacked in your seat by a zealous clown."
Narration by Niehoff envisioned a tour of an imaginary city. Dancers muttered about problems (for instance, killing a cat), there were kinetic tantrums, and the performers brought in boxes, from which they pulled what might have been mementos from someone's personal life: figurines, slips of paper, photographs, tape measures, jigsaw puzzle pieces.
Although the action was now dramatically complicated, it had not become dramatically convincing, for the choreography had blurred the basic notion of party behavior (yes, people can throw tantrums at parties, but who lugs collections of mementos to them?). When the audience was asked to join the dancers in a circle, you could fear a togetherness ritual in the offing. But nothing so overtly touchy-feely developed. Instead, we had a reversion to kindergarten when dancers passed out pillows and invited spectators to stretch on the floor. The experience proved surprisingly pleasant and when naptime ended, the dancers soon vanished away.
I was disappointed that Lingo did not let more of "Inhabit" turn into a choreographic commentary on the foibles of social behavior. But I liked its overall conviviality and the way Niehoff and her collaborators skillfully avoided the extremes of both emotional excess and New Age sanctimoniousness.
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