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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Abarukas; 'Lullaby to Mr. Adam'
Abarukas; 'Lullaby to Mr. Adam'
Company / Show / Event
Abarukas; 'Lullaby to Mr. Adam'
Venue / Location
MMAC (Manhattan Movement and Arts Center)
A bit about you:
(your occupation, your website, etc.)
Artistic Director; The Moving Beauty Series. beautymoving.com
What was the last time you moved your body?
Five minutes ago.
Why did you go to the show? What did you expect to see?
I went to see the show because I was excited to view Mr. Sakuraba's choreography. I expected to see something unexpected.
Due to my position as the A.D. of The Moving Beauty Series I see a great deal of dance. One could easily call me a worshiper at the altar of Terpsichore. While I find this invocation fulfilling, a hazard of being constantly immersed in movement is that ennui with anything 'less than moving' easily sets in. I will always enjoy seeing well crafted dance, however I need to see something that communicates beyond retrograded movement studies if I am to be enthralled. It was in this state that I entered MMAC as a sweating heaving mess (having sprinted across town from 5th Avenue to arrive on time) to see 'Lullaby to Mr. Adam'.
Opening the program was a premiere from choreographer/dancer Vivake Khamsingsaveth. This piece could best described as sex on wheels. Starring Mr. Khamsingsaveth in a series of dance vignettes wherein he was frequently hounded by a trio of Amazonian vixens and shirtless Adonises out to punish him for some transgression or another, the work evolved from frequently revolving duo on trio counterpoint groupings into sets of linked chain partnering wherein every ensemble member proved to be a part of a machine that ultimately whisked Mr. Khamsingsaveth away to a frightening unknown. I wish we could have continued the journey with him and his sinister cohorts. While temperature raising and enthralling I felt that the piece had more to say, (it clocked in at 15 minutes), indeed I burned to 'hear' more from the piece along the lines of 'the good times' that these characters might have once shared before they 'devolved' to what we were shown of 'exquisite purgatory'. I'm hoping Mr. Khamsingsaveth will give a longer view of this work in short order. Following a brief pause, 'Lullaby to Mr. Adam' began.
I have seen an earlier version of this piece (having lit it for a previous concert engagement), however this would be my first time properly 'experiencing' it as serving as the technical director for a piece is completely different from watching it as an audience member. What a difference sitting in the audience makes.
'Lullaby to Mr. Adam' unfolds with a set of tableaus which serve to introduce the lead characters one by who are then arranged by the 'Mr. Adam' in a portrait of visceral despair. Choreographer, Yoshito Sakuraba reveals a masterful painterly hand as he carefully builds the mise en scène. The mood is fraught with tension and anxiety and you, the audience sit on the edge of your seat aware that something is going to happen- to be precise, aware that something is 'not right' as you spend every moment of this piece alternately at odds with and guiltily comfortable with yourself while you battle the sense of delicious paranoia and peaked intrigue that threatens to envelop you at every turn.
Over the course of this abstractly narrative piece, individual dancers take on allegorical attributes that transcend the natural impulses of their assumed characters all the while continuing to develop the action of plot. Red-haired bonny eyed, Erin Dillon is a ninja like femme fatale who at first sight seems to be an uninterested bystander until she closes the piece with a game changing bang (I won't give it away). In a majestically choreographed solo she defies physics and time with her back bending head crushing solos only to slip away just as the pressure becomes too much.
Tsa-Hsi Hung; 'Rain', as what I initially and incorrectly assumed to be a jilted lover lashed her legs into a web spinning fury that helped to keep much of the tension alive and our thoughts away from the final reveal. This none conventional beauty smolders with cold intensity which once again proves that things are rarely what they appear to be.
Guang-Lei Hei was both sinister puppet master and gentle brother to 'Mr. Adam'; a best friend who pushes cinema like unveils into motion on this none stop tour de force of intrigue and whom, paradoxically, is the sole source of actual comfort when all seems lost- more than anyone else, Mr. Hei commanded my attention at all times. His was the most ambivalent character- someone who exuded a candle to the moth like charisma that held focus with an open hand only to swiftly grasp you by the neck with a vice like grip whenever you try to slip away and then relax said grip just enough to let you know that you, in truth you don't want to go; you want to stay and watch his devilry. Marvelous.
Shawn Rawls, the incredibly buff and agile contemporary break dancer who appeared to literally rip the souls out of his companions (you have to see it to believe it) before setting them on a pathway to deeper truth, is one of those dancers who defies gravity and expectations. Just when you think he is down for the count, he suddenly flips into a standing handstand before flying away. He more than any other character represented, to my eyes he was the manifestation of capricious fate- or Puck.
Of all of the dancers/actors, Caitlin Cantrell was for me the most sympathetic. Even with her near constant dare devil grin, this lady cannot help but exude likeability. The arc of her character suggested that she was more in the know about things than she was letting on. Who was she? In this film noir like world of dance I never truly found out- though I have my sneaking suspicions and I am desperate to discover how correct they aret. I love that Ms. Cantrell refused to be defined by any situation in which she found herself. She is one of those dancers who offers myriad interpretations with her every gesture which even in a mystery world like 'Lullaby to Mr. Adam' is incredibly attractive. Were this 'The Sleeping Beauty' her character would be 'The Fairy of Possibility'. Fascinating.
Sinuous Rebecca Quintrell was an innocuous bystander who, especially in her jaw dropping pas de deux with Mr. Hei, morphed into a marionette like cipher who reveals a soul that cannot be contained. This peculiar refusal to be dominated is especially on display during the aforementioned pas de deux wherein she is manipulated directly at the base of her neck. Though entranced, Ms. Quintrell finds a way to break the spell for both her character, and thankfully for we audience, proving that at all times one always has the choice to walk away. Wonderful.
And finally we come to Adán Aguilar Jiménez, the 'Mr. Adam' of our title. Given his incredible stature and rakish good looks, one cannot help being equally seduced and intimidated by this man. Even in repose he cuts a dashing figure that inspires affability and admiration, however it is his dancing that pulls you in and unexpectedly moves you to tears. In contrapposto to Ms. Quintell, Mr. Jiménez serves as a direct link to the audience. He seems to be aware of the world in which he is living as well as of the audience who is observing, though he never overtly breaks the '4th Wall' or severs his link to his compatriots. Mr. Jiménez carries the weight of the world and our focus on his shoulders as he confronts and guides us through 'Lullaby to Mr. Adam' with a sincere smile that implores us to see him for who he is. In a heartrending solo where he lays bare just how isolated in the crowd he feels, Mr. Jiménez unleashes a torrent of dizzying turns and leaps before spilling down and along the floor as he drags his and our collective hearts over the coals only to return to the cold world in which he is trapped seeking a moment of connection- a moment of truth. Thank g-d Mr. Lei is there to offer him a moment of respite before plunging us back into the fold. Though the piece comes to a jaw-dropping explosive conclusion that continues to shake me many hours later, and though I will ever accuse choreographer, Mr. Yoshito Sakuraba of being a cruel man, I MUST give this performance, concept, and choreography my highest accolades. I was moved; I was enthralled- held captive is more like it. Even as I write this I am haunted, and though I 'saw' an earlier version of this piece in the spring, I have never seen anything like this before. If possible I am going to see it again so that I can savour the incredible parable of uncertainty, hope, and despair that Mr. Sakuraba has so gorgeously revealed to us all. I can't wait to learn more about this world that he has crafted which in so many alarming ways mirrors the truth of our own.
-Juan Michael Porter II