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Rebecca Lazier's "There Might Be Others"

Rebecca Lazier's "There Might Be Others"
Garnet Henderson/Follow @garnethenderson on Twitter

By Garnet Henderson/Follow @garnethenderson on Twitter
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Published on March 15, 2016

The Choreographer and her International Cast Prepare for the Premiere

There Might Be Others

March 16-19, 7:30pm

New York Live Arts, 219 W 19th St., Chelsea

Choreographer: Rebecca Lazier

Composer: Dan Trueman in collaboration with Mobius Percussion and Sō Percussion

Pictured Above L-R: Kaya Kolodziejczyk, Agnieszka Kryst, Simon Courchel, Ramona Nagabczynska
Photo by Jakub Wittchen for Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk

For tickets go to New York Live Arts

Sitting in on a rehearsal for Rebecca Lazier’s There Might Be Others on the second day the full cast was assembled, I thought the dancers had been working together for months.

Later, I learned that the intense connection I sensed in the room was a function of the task Lazier has created in her new work, There Might Be Others. It is inspired by minimalist composer Terry Riley’s In C, a 1964 composition which consists of 53 numbered musical phrases that musicians can move through as they please. In similar fashion, Lazier has assembled an score of movement “modules” ranging from interactive games, to gesture, to abstract movement. The dancers must improvise and make decisions as they go, but unlike in Riley’s indeterminate work, Lazier has also crafted highly specific rules that govern how dancers move through the score. For example, dancers must proceed in order and remain within three modules of one another at all times. In order to execute these tasks, the performers watch each other intently, but they also preserve a sense of play.

There Might Be Others features live music by composer Dan Trueman, whose score also is an exploration of the principles of In C. The musicians, a rotating ensemble of percussionists, perform their own modules according to similar rules. They play with medium as well as structure, occasionally breaking from their instruments to make sound by tearing paper or passing around pocket change.

A man and woman stand chest to chest in the foreground while a line of dancers hold each others wrists while another dancer lays on the ground in the back
Pictured L-R: Simon Courchel, Aleksandra Bozek, Ramona Nagabczynska, Jan Lorys, Agnieszka Kryst & Christopher Ralph
Photo by Jakub Wittchen for Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk

Lazier developed her work through a series of international residencies in Poland, Turkey, and Canada, ultimately inviting dancers from each of these locations to perform in the New York premiere. During each of the residencies, Lazier brought along a few of her New York-based dancers to help stage the piece. Thus, certain segments of the multinational cast had performed together before I saw them in rehearsal, but the others had not yet met. However, because all of the dancers – fifteen in this iteration – retain the freedom to make choices within the structure, the dance could turn out differently every time even if it were performed by the same cast.

“You can’t reenact the piece,” says Lazier. “It’s a process of constant change.” For the dancers and musicians, the challenge is to find balance: between individual agency and collective action, between structure and spontaneity. Though they all know the order of the modules, none of them know exactly what is going to happen next. The modules have no predetermined length, and not all the performers have to execute the same module at once.

“They have to be such an intelligent group,” Lazier said. “They have to find what’s going to happen next, but not with caution or suspicion.”

Two dancers cross their legs and crouch close to the ground. A shadow of a dancer standing is projected on the back wall
Pictured L-R: Kaya Kolodziejczyk & Simon Courchel
Photo by Jakub Wittchen for Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk

In earlier drafts, Lazier was more lax with the rules. At first, she allowed the dancers to move through the modules at whatever pace and in whatever order they wanted, more like In C. One set of modules – there are four total – took two hours. Lazier was not pleased with the result. “There have been some real battles,” she said. “I don’t want to stage confusion.” To that end, she crafted more specific rules and brought in dramaturg Naomi Leonard, a Princeton University professor who studies group decision making and collective motion.

However much of the underlying structure Lazier decides to show her audiences this week at New York Live Arts, it will likely be impossible for them to grasp every rich layer in one viewing. Eventually, though, all will be revealed: Lazier and her collaborators have put together a book detailing the score and its related rules, which will be released after the premiere.


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