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DANCE VISIONS NY ON FILM:
"EVENING: A Mosaic of Poetry, Dance, Art and Nature"
November 21 and 22, 2020
Streaming from websites of Sands Point Conservancy and or www.dancevisionsny.org
Reviewed by Barney Yates November 22, 2020
Since Covid-19 struck, artists have been grasping to adapt their art forms to the streaming space. With "EVENING: a Mosaic of Poetry, Dance, Art and Nature" we see Dance Visions NY, under the direction of Beth Jucovy, throwing itself full-flight into a synthesis of video art, poetry and dance with an extended meditation on gravity and desire.
The piece is created with dance and video to envelop a 15-page poem by Jucovy's daughter, Kyra Jucovy, of which seven pages are excerpted for purposes of this production. Largely filmed on the gorgeous grounds and shores of Long Island's Sands Point Conservancy, a Gatsby-esque estate, it was streamed November 21 & 22, 2020 from a link on the Conservancy's website to Dance Visions NY’s YouTube channel. Beth Jucovy, whose choreography is informed by her background as a Duncan dancer, is responsible for choreography, direction and video editing of the piece.
Kyra's poem is in free verse and was written in 2012. It's in eight parts, some being reflective, others being an address to another woman. One of its motifs is a journey in and out of darkness, as in:
"She says, all things begin in darkness.
Here, where we stand, the storm will hit,
the waves will crash, water will eat away at land,
Eroding and devouring these tiny pebbles beneath our feet,
The tenacious remainder of a history of assault,
Eventually to be reclaimed and made again into darkness..."
Another is a discussion of gravity and its effect on desire, as in:
Desire, I think, is like gravity,
It is only after something has defied gravity
That you can see the beginning of gravity.
Only, when something is empty of desire,
Can you see the beginnings of desire.
If desire begins in the darkness,
And if, as you insist, desire ends in the darkness,
Then there must be a moment, out there, in the darkness,
Empty of desire, a moment or an eternity of stillness,
Without even the ghost of desire.
There is also an extended disquisition on violence and a strong statement that the sea is full of it, which goes appropriately with spellbinding videos of roiling ocean waters.
Actor Tzena Nicole, the voice of the poem, appears both as a voice-over and on-camera, striding along the lawns and battlements of Sands Point. The film shuffles gorgeous shots from nature: water, rain, lightning and lapping tides on beaches, together with short takes of dances performed on the lawns, walls and waterfront of the Conservancy. The choreography includes references to Duncan dances, executed by seven dancers including Beth Jucovy herself. The soundtrack is music by Erik Satie, Jóhann Jóhannssohn, Bedrich Smetana, Olafur Arnalds, Brahms, Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet, plus an original piece by Fehmi Aslan.
The video makes ample use of the effects found in contemporary editing suites like Open Broadcast Studio, superimposing shots, dissolving between them, and frequently displaying dances tiled across the screen (sometimes three, sometimes six ...). In one scene, I sensed there was a visual statement about perspective, with the screen offering two shots together: a wider shot and a nearer shot of the same dance. The imagery was predominantly exteriors. There was only one interior shot, superimposing a dancer in a dark room over a selection of exterior shots.
We are told that footage was recorded on the grounds and beachfront of Sands Point Preserve but that performers also recorded at other outdoor spaces that were accessible to them during the pandemic. These included locations in NYC, NJ, Hawaii, Virginia and Minnesota.
The overall effect is, well, that of a mixture. The text conveys a disquisition on gravity, darkness and desire. The shots of nature might be a profound development of these literary themes and they are extremely beautiful, but they often go by too fast for one to adequately savor them and reflect on them in the context of what is being heard. The dance content is freeform contemporary movement and resists being associated, thematically, with the words one is straining to make sense of. When you finally surrender to it, you see that the piece is weaving four threads together--poetry, dance, music and imagery--independently, in an uneasy blend that doesn't deliver a unified message. It's just there for you, like stream of consciousness, and it's mostly pleasing. You are meant to realize that the poem is like a river that just keeps flowing until it reaches a natural end. The title says the project is a mosaic and that's what Jucovy delivers.
The dancers are Louisa Cathcart, Ligia Gaissionok, Beth Jucovy, Albena Kervanbashieva, Hope Kroog, Rebekah Mulkey and Michelle Tilghman.
A successor version of "EVENING," dubbed "Elmont Version," will be streamed from 7:30 Saturday, December 12 and to 10:00 PM Sunday, December 13 from the website of Elmont Public Library, elmontlibrary.org.
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