Impressions of: Vim Vigor Dance Company’s "Future Perfect" at Baruch Performing Arts Center
Concept, Direction, Writing, and Set Design by Shannon Gillen
Choreography by Shannon Gillen in collaboration with Vim Vigor Dance Company
Performance by Jason Cianciulli, Rebecca Diab, Martin Durov, Laja Field, Emma Whiteley
Sound Score by Martin Durov
Lighting Design by Barbara Samuels
Costume Design by Joseph S. Blaha
Performances resume February 9-11, 2017. For tickets, click here.
Do you enjoy being scared silly, having your scalp prickle and your heart gallop as danger looms? If so, Vim Vigor’s Future Perfect is for you. Making its New York premiere at Baruch College in a two-week run, this dance-theater work by Shannon Gillen filters the immediacy of live performance through a cinematic lens.
A generic campsite — one tent, a heap of smoking logs, several coniferous trees — looks innocent enough until the lights come up. Two men and two women are frozen in a tableau as strident music with ominous chords blares. One of the women begins to lip sync while aggressively flailing. Our stomachs contract: Something weird is going to happen.
But first, the setup. Off to watch a meteor shower, Allie (Emma Whiteley) and Mel (Laja Field) chance upon Nate (Jason Cianciulli) and Ivan (Martin Durov), who, it's eluded, are up to no good. As Mel and Nate flirt, Allie spritzes herself with bug spray, the sound of which, via a recording, is amplified to a deafening level. She leans down and inadvertently discovers the arm of and then the whole body of a lifeless girl under a tarp. The quartet panics, but they ultimately sigh with relief. The girl is breathing.
Or is she?
This girl, attired in a striped t-shirt and high-waisted jeans like a '70s teenybopper, glides in and out of the campsite and the story. It remains unclear whether she's a ghost, a person, or a figment of their collective imagination. However, she's real enough to our protagonists, and her presence galvanizes them to confront their dark impulses: lust, violence, self-preservation.
“Show don't tell” is an old saw in storytelling, for good reason. When characters speak, think, and act, we become complicit in their choices. Here, the protagonists reveal their fear and desire through dramatic scenes, recorded monologues, and dance sequences. Although related from alternate points of view, our characters are unreliable and confused. A scene from Nate’s perspective in which the three women crudely seduce him turns out to be a vision of Ivan’s.
Or is it?
While words anchor the plot in time and to space, the dancing divulges the shadows in the characters’ hearts. They thrust, throw, and thrash themselves across, onto, and against a bark-covered floor. Gillen's choreography blisters with volatility, and its most scintillating feats arise from partnerships. A clasp of hands or a lazy hug evolves into furious lifts and speedy somersaults.
Future Perfect unfolds against a psychological backdrop where everything looks familiar yet nothing is. Like the best storytellers, Gillen keeps us off balance and guessing. At the end, the girl returns. She picks up the edge of the tarp to uncover a golden light. She issues an invitation to the four campers to follow her. It appears she’s an angel, ready to lead them to a magical world.
Or is she something else, taking them somewhere else?
Gillen presents the building blocks of a myth and asks us to be its architect. Those who require pat endings and clear storylines may be annoyed, frustrated even. But if you’re willing to play along, Future Perfect will mean what you need it to mean.
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