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Gibney Dance Company in "One Thousand Million Seconds"
Gibney Dance Company
July 15th 2018
On July 15th, Gibney Dance Company performed a work by Bryan Arias titled One Thousand Million Seconds at the Brooklyn Bridge Park as part of their “dance-mobile” series of performances. The work involves only five dancers and was performed on this occasion on a slick square of white flooring directly taped to the ground. The dancers chosen for the performance were Gibney senior company director Amy Miller, co-director Nigel Campbell, digital media associate Julia Discenza, community actionist Will Noling, and company member Zui Gomez.
The sun was just beginning to fade as the dancers began the piece, casting a soft, pale light over their bodies that contrasted with the industrial backdrop of the Manhattan skyline behind them. The dancers relished in their movements, drawing your eyes towards them even amidst the bustle of the Brooklyn piers. However, during longer periods of repetitive choreography or at unignorable distractions, the sphere of hushed focus and intrigue that surrounded One Thousand Million Seconds was burst. A cruise ship full of partygoers chugged by, accompanied by a chorus of cheers. A very sweaty jogger ran right across the front of the stage. The lapping of the river began to lull me to sleep during a particularly soft moment in the piece. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have enjoyed the work more in a traditional theater setting; this work on this stage is not for the easily distracted.
Despite the distraction of the venue, the talent of the choreographer and performers was undeniable and especially evident in their partnerwork. The work cycled through a series of solos, duets, trios, quartets, and quintets that showcased the dancers’ trust of one another. One particularly striking moment coincided perfectly with the sunset. Campbell lifted his partner upside down with her head nestled near his waist and her feet pointed straight up towards the sky. He then began to rotate and carry her across the stage. This feat of human trust, strength, and vulnerability became even more stunning when tinted golden by the setting sun.
One Thousand Million Seconds is a decidedly abstract work. On the Gibney website, it is described as “an abstract story of society and human existence” that “explores the humanity of the performers and addresses themes of life, existence, and happiness.” Although I did not form such an elegant analysis of the theme while experiencing the work itself, the description given does make sense. The piece conveys a general aura of pure human emotion that is almost indistinguishable in its type because of its intensity. Due to changing light conditions and distance from the performance, it was difficult to discern the dancers’ faces-- nevertheless, they used the more visible parts of their bodies to express emotion. This was especially evident in their use of small hand motions. Besides the face, the hands are the most emotionally expressive part of the body, and the Gibney dancers used this to their advantage.
For those who enjoy abstract work, One Thousand Million Seconds is a must-see. Even if the meaning is lost on you, the visuals are striking enough to make the performance worth attending.
Author: Eliza Rudalevige, Dance in the City Barnard Pre-College Program Student 2018