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IMPRESSIONS: ARTS ALIVE at Arts on Site, Featuring Kaylah Farrish/Decent Structure Arts’ “Martyr’s Fiction” and Rohan Bhargava/Rovaco Dance’s “Slow Motion Lament”

IMPRESSIONS: ARTS ALIVE at Arts on Site, Featuring Kaylah Farrish/Decent Structure Arts’ “Martyr’s Fiction” and Rohan Bhargava/Rovaco Dance’s “Slow Motion Lament”
Theo Boguszewski

By Theo Boguszewski
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Published on March 18, 2021
Photo by Steven Pisano

March 4th, 2021

Choreography: Kaylah Farrish and Rohan Bhargava

Performers: Kaylah Farrish, Rebecca Margolick, Alden Henderson, Nico Gonzales

Music: Martyr’s Fiction: "How We Got By" by Mt. Kimbie ft. James Blake, Monologue Text by Jamal Abrams, "Erosion of Mediocrity" by Demdike Stare, "Back to our Regular Scheduled Programming" Text by Kayla Farrish, Slow Motion Lament: Saul Guanipa, “Slow Motion Lament,” Sufjan Stevens, “Visions of Gideon”


Arts on Site has nurtured the creation of live dance against all odds throughout COVID-19 by showcasing intimate works to small, distanced audiences. This ARTS ALIVE iteration presents duets by Kaylah Farrish (Decent Structure Arts) and Rohan Bhargava (Rovaco Dance), which invites audiences to find similar and contrasting impulses in their portrayal of gender and relationships.

Kayla Farrish and Rebecca Margolick extend both arms upward on one diagonal
Decent Structure Arts’ “Martyr’s Fiction”; photo Steven Pisano

In excerpts from Decent Structure Arts’ Martyr’s Fiction, Farrish and Rebecca Margolick fluctuate between ethereal and bestial. They enter the space tentatively, walking sideways as if looking to the other for a cue. Sometimes, they explode in unison, like when they simultaneously burst into a lush pitched attitude derrière, and other times, they move gesturally, like when they stand side by side and stretch their arms forward as though scanning the horizon. They experiment with locomotion: a rotated run in place or a grounded scoot in a second position plié. The musical accompaniment to this excerpt is Mount Kimbie’s "How We Got By,” followed by a monologue by Jamal Abrams.

Farrish exits, and Margolick performs a powerful solo in silence, alternating between extension and eruption as she conquers the space. The solo pokes fun at femininity with balletic port de bras and a curtsey to the audience. Margolick holds splayed hands at her crotch, as though gesturing toward it, and then dissolves into classical waltzes across the space. She exits with a subtle, aloof gesture with her right hand, as though disposing of a tissue.

Rebecca Margolick places her hands in a V at crotch level
Decent Structure Arts’ “Martyr’s Fiction”; photo Steven Pisano

An interlude of a radio announcement read by Farrish feels as though it should have accompanied the prior solo. While the words flow as a stream of consciousness, the statement “we will return to our normal programming” may comment on a fleeting attention to social justice.

Farish walks to center stage, gesturing and speaking. Both movement and words seemingly grasp at articulation, a simultaneous attempt to communicate something of significance. The statement “You call me angry; I call it just trying to make myself safe” stands out. She faces the audience with a gentle hand touching her lower stomach as the lights fade.

Martyr’s Fiction is a dance-theater feature film, featuring five performers, and was initially commissioned by Gibney, with additional support from Baryshnikov Arts Center Residency and New York University. These excerpts left me eager to witness the work in its entirety.

Kayla Farrish clutches one hand to her heart and extends the other
Decent Structure Arts’ “Martyr’s Fiction”; Steven Pisano

Slow Motion Lament, choreographed by Rovaco Dance Company’s Rohan Bhargava, resonates as gorgeously intimate in a COVID-era world devoid of togetherness. The work originally premiered in 2019 as part of the evening-length dance-theater work entitled KAMA.

Unlike the tentative entrance of Farrish and Margolick, Nico Gonzales and Alden Henderson strut into the space and embrace, soft hands caressing torsos, triceps, lower backs. They are clad in shiny black jazz pants and off-white linen tops. Saul Guanipa's “Slow Motion Lament” is ambient and cinematic, blending seamlessly into the Sufjan Stevens’ “Visions of Gideon.”

Nico Gonzales and Alden Henderson spoon together
Rovaco Dance Company’s "Slow Motion Lament"; photo Steven Pisano

Slow Motion Lament contains romantic moments that reverberate in my gut, like when the two men spoon on the floor. In a tableau echoing the first piece, they kneel side by side and gesture in unison. As their relationship evolves, these moments of mutual care unfold into an imbalance of power — someone walks away, another follows. Gonzales bends over with hands on his knees to prop himself up. His hands slip, he falls to the ground, and Henderson strides away. Gonzales attempts to follow him, then reevaluates, stepping in many directions, and tripping himself as he decides on a path forward. His panic at an impending heartbreak is powerful.

An athletic solo on the floor ends in a contorted pose; Gonzales lies on his back with legs tucked underneath him, his torso pulsing off the floor, conjuring the image of a heart ripped out of a chest, still beating. He curls into a fetal position as the lights dim.

Nico Gonzales lies on the ground, his head tilted upward, as Alden Henderson straddles him, looking down
Rovaco Dance Company’s "Slow Motion Lament"; photo Steven Pisano

While the billing may not have been intentional (the original press release advertised a different opener), side by side, the two duets offer an opportunity to appreciate gender roles that challenge traditional constructs. In Martyr’s Fiction, the women present as defiant and aggressive. The work pushes energy outward to the audience, as though the performers are striving to communicate something to us and to the world. In Slow Motion Lament, the men display emotion and introspection, and the duet pulls our attention to the space between them, enthralling us with their focused attention and delicate interaction. In live performance, the energy communicates beyond what can be seen.


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