Impressions of ZviDance's “SURVEILLANCE”
New York Live Arts
June 11th-14th 2014
Choreography by Zvi Gotheiner in collaboration with the dancers
Performances by Chelsea Ainsworth, Todd Allen, Alex Biegelson, Alison Clancy, Tyner Dumortier, Samantha Harvey, Ying-Ying Shiau, Robert M. Valdez, Jr.
Visuals by Hertog Nadler with animations by Uri Hallel
Media Programming by Jon Bremner
Music by Scott Killian in collaboration with Wilkis “Ideology” Figuereo
Lighting Design by Mark London
Costume Design by Mary Jo Mecca
You are being watched. This isn't fear mongering or paranoia: It's the truth. We always suspected, but Edward Snowden proved it when he released documents demonstrating surveillance programs orchestrated by governments around the world. Usually executed under the guise of keeping us safe, most of these operations occur unbeknownst to us. What happens in these recordings of our comings and goings is the inspiration for ZviDance's new multi-media work, Surveillance.
The piece opens with Todd Allen striding into the space wearing only black briefs and black socks. With the house lights still up, he writhes, a cocky smirk etched on his face. Soon, seven dancers, chiseled bodies also clad in skivvies, prance out. They form a single line, wiggling their bodies like a snake shrugging out of a too tight skin. It could be construed as a sexy, mixed-gender Chippendales routine, but the performers exact probing expressions. They are watching us as much as we are watching them.
Forgoing stealth and suspicion, Surveillance is incongruously brash and energetic. The octet enacts explosive jumps with raised knees and slashing kicks to bland club beats (from a disappointing score by the frequently terrific Scott Killian). Duets often form; the partners knot their bodies together and hike each other high into the air. Sizzling with uncaged energy, the performers embody an athletic determinism.
Surveillance unfolds episodically, and vignettes, interspersed between the heated dancing, sometimes hint at the repercussions of subterfuge and technology. A color-blocked projection of words like Vegan, Italian, and Historian appears, and the dancers stride forward and self-identify. In a fast-moving world with disaster seemingly around the corner, the multi-varied human is reduced to pat labels.
The technology employed is less the high tech spyware of a James Bond thriller and more like mall security. Performers film each other dancing, and the results are livestreamed in a grainy feed. Underscoring the banality of most existences, these jerky, fuzzy videos reveal — perhaps unintentionally — that most information gathered is probably more useful to marketers than government officials.
The work takes a passive approach to the long-term implications of surveillance. The loss of privacy, theirs and ours, isn’t tested in any meaningful way. During a sequence in which a dancer searches others’ bodies, poking in ears and peering down throats, everyone seems bored, rather than outraged, that their personal space has been violated.
Surveillance often seems likes two concepts stapled together. There is the dancing, robust and lively, and the idea, how constant scrutiny affects our lives. But with one not reinforcing the other, it’s difficult to connect with Surveillance.
Follow Erin Bomboy on Twitter at @ErinBomboy