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Jeanette Stoner & Dancers: Old and New Works
April 29 to May 2, 2017
83 Leonard Street, 5 fl.
Reviewed by Barney Yates April 29, 2017
When you attend a Jeanette Stoner evening, you are amazed at how much more she can do with a loft production than most choreographers can do with a great big theater. Her concert of old and new works, presented April 29 to May 2 in her loft at 83 Leonard Street, was another such demonstration.
Chase Booth in "Numinous," photo courtesy Jeanette Stoner and Dancers.
The program cited choreography as by Jeanette Stoner with the Dancers. "Numinous" (2007) began with Chase Booth under a blue cloth, creeping and then sliding across the floor. I shuddered thinking of floor burns but there were no tell-tale squeaks of flesh against floor. His movements changed to slides of increasing distance. I imagined the intended image to be that of a foetus in a blue placenta. Booth's shaven head emerged occasionally; he whirled, shimmered and vibrated as if birth would be next. My wife saw him as a sea creature trapped in plastic waste. Who was right? Birth or sea creature? Well, you don't argue with your wife. Besides, she knows more about birth than you do.
Chase Booth (R) and Kingsley Nwaogu (L) in "Acute." This photo was taken during an APAP showing in the Jazz at Lincoln Center space. Photo by Darial Sneed.
"Acute" (2002) was a duet of Booth with Kingsley Nwaogu which seemed to have more subtext than you usually get in dance, period. Its fullness is a characteristic of Stoner's work. A man is struggling with and pursued by his shadow. We revel in the athletic movement with shared wheeling on a rolling pedestal; the two men separating and reuniting. The men are tall and strong. It's Yin and Yang. I felt blessed to be there and note that the concert lost nothing by being set in a loft.
"Sketch," one of two premieres, began with two men (Peter David and Charles Richardson) with lanterns and a woman (Irina Harris) against the wall, all three in white. As patterns of light projected from the lanterns, she said "No, stop it!" She seemed to seek a way out through the stage right wall. The sound track (arranged by David Rothenberg and Paolo Conte) changed to "It's Wonderful" and the men shifted to a pop-style dance with a "don't worry, be happy" feel. Nobody in the dance was young and everybody was wonderful. Next was the other premiere, "Faure," named after the composer, in which Chase Booth (Is he getting tired yet? Not a chance.), Kingsley Nwaogu and Caroline Fermin appeared in gold lame costumes by Anna Cole. Or were they bronze? Let's call them three tones: copper, gold and bronze. If you don't see the three fates in their graceful, balletic dance, you don't remember the parcae in your old Latin book. They flicked one another off with a gesture of the hand. I admired lighting designer Zvi Gotheiner for making the most of the space with its low ceiling.
"Masks" (1998) offered us Chase Booth and Peter Davis in masks and Caroline Fermin without one. She removes Booth's mask and she can't get it back on him. It's like a relationship, you see. There are some guys...well, you unmask them and they are never the same before you. Once unmasked, your man can't be re-masked to you, no matter how hard you try. Davis, greyhaired and white-masked, holds his mask up as he rolls, turning it and preserving it. Y'know how other guys are better at maintaining their mask? They're more slippery. In the end, the dancers inflate with a pumping motion. I can't explain that.
After intermission came "Dormant" (2015), danced by Chase Booth, John Gutierrez and Kingsley Nwaogu. A figure was covered in what looks like a vast cloth of black nylon. Two others joined him onstage and they looked kind of like women in burkas. They pushed the lying figure back and forth between them. Is the suggestion of someone being covered in oil? If so, then who are the pushers?
By now, I am realizing that I may be reading cocamamie ideas into the work, but it's because the dances are making me feel smart and creative. That's a sign of their success.
The evening culminated with "Stairs" (2015), set to an electronic score by Svjetlana Bukevich. A gauzy scrim is dropped center stage into which Isabella Diaz has been hung, as if in a net. She is surrounded by Chase Booth, John Gutierrez, Bryan Longchamp and Kingsley Nwaogu, crouching, all in red costumes by the late Carol Pelletier, who receives a special dedication in the program. (I remember Carol especially for her theatrical work with Françoise Kourilsky's Ubu Repertory Theater.) There is two-sided stair unit upstage. The men move up and down the stairs like a 1940s cartoon. Diaz swings back and forth in the net. The stair unit is spun as the men jump on and off it. They are splattered against the stage left wall. The sound track seems to have Diaz panting. Her enclosure in the net flashes me back to "Numinous," the first dance. Jeanette Stoner seems to like puttting people in sacks. Diaz's dangling solo reverses in its mood; she is suddenly uncomfortable. The net--her world--has turned against her. There is soul in everyone's movement, even that of the stair unit, which becomes like a character in the dance; tipped forward and pivoted on its corner. It's a heavy partner to dance with and I admire the finesse that brings it off.
Kudos for Stoner, for the indefagitable Chase Booth and for the entire ensemble, whose work displays a richness born of their long-time collaboration with a splendid choreographer.
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