IMPRESSIONS OF: EMERGING ARTISTS AT DIXON PLACE
Meet Lydia Mokdessi, Benjamin Wagner and Nathalie Matychak and Dancers
Dixon Place Presents
Tuesday April 14, 2015 at 7:30 pm
No Subject lineage/ a dance for them by Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner
Lacuna choreographed by Nathalie Matychak and danced by Rebecca Allen, Titilayo Derricotte, Sarah Hillmon, Danielle McIntosh, Alex M Schell
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Ellie Covan, the artistic director and founder of Dixon Place, reminds us that this creative laboratory started in her living room 29 years ago. Then music and spoken word were presented — small, salon adventures. Soon the ideas expanded so grandly that Covan was forced to shoo everyone out of her apartment and git them to the theater at 161 Chrystie Street.
Today Covan has exchanged her living room for more sophisticated production values and a bar outside the theater that subsidizes the non-profit work. This means ticket prices are kept affordable (12 dollars) for cool, funky shows featuring multi-genre artists honing their craft. You may meet the performance artist sensation of the 21st century right here. They may even buy you a drink.
Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner
This evening we are introduced to the creator/performers Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner, two fashion don’ts in bright, patterned, short-sleeve tops and non-coordinating, dark track pants. They come accessorized with smatterings of aluminum foil taped randomly all over their get-ups. Who are these outlandish tourists? Mokdessi, a petite woman with full, red lips and doe eyes, sports a shiny, black, and asymmetrical bob; she could possibly be from this planet. But Wagner, lanky, bald, and possessing white-white-white translucent skin with deep blue, sunken browless eyes, appears other-worldly.
The expressionless odd couple first pace towards one another on a long diagonal, shifting their feet back and forth repeatedly as their arms shoot up and out in the manner of precision-team dancers. When almost face to face, they turn away, wafting in feathery arabesques, only to repeat their ritual.
This is the first chapter of many in which our couple move simply to and through what sound like radio transmissions of other people’s lives. (Perhaps foil accouterments capture funny bits in airwaves.) We hear snippets about Christmas in Florida, and on a horse farm. There are break-ups, job interviews, a monologue about folk dancing, and one very long, uncomfortable, deeply personal love letter.
In No subject lineage/a dance for them, the artists mess around with many unrelated layers of communication seeming to ask, “Do our actions and reactions give meaning to others’ life stories? Is there connection, even when we are not obviously connected? Can a woman carry on a wordless conversation with a man who interrupts their stage endeavors to directly engage with the audience?”
While Wagner charms, surprises and directs, making us laugh by breaking from choreography to admit that he “can’t take this anymore”, and is “filled with self-loathing”; Mokdessi remains attentive to the atmosphere. Her extended leg hangs in the air like the words we hear; she presses against the walls, and floors, perhaps to sponge up ideas.
Communication is complex and frustrating. Can we ever get at the true story? How perfect that Mokdessi and Wagner end this offering on all fours yowling, as if to the moon.
Nathalie Matychak with Rebecca Allen, Titilayo Derricotte, Sarah Hillmon, Danielle McIntosh and Alex M Schell
Natalie Matychak’s Lacuna begins with romantic piano music. The soundtrack then surges as a powerful string symphony is introduced. It sure would be swell to know who the composer is. Shall I mention getting the proper rights to music? Music rights are a big issue in the dance community. Every year a group of lawyers with members of ASCAP show up at one convention or another speaking to dance artists about ways to use music properly and legally. If one is serious about continuing in the choreographic field (as I think Natalie Mathychak should be) then read, ask, and learn. Find a musical collaborator to create an original sound score. The investment is worth it. BFA programs (Matychak went to NYU Tisch) should address this.
Now that the sermon is over… Lacuna was a fine way to end the evening’s introduction to emerging artists. Matychak’s five dancing women, co-collaborators on the piece, are stunners. Matychak, an able and inventive choreographer, uses vocabulary that’s lush, solid, and fun for our eyes to follow. Only five dancers? The stage seemed filled, never crowded, but always energized. That is a marvelous accomplishment.
We see the dancers reach out to a powerful force and clasp their torsos as if to connect to an entity buried deep inside. Falling, rising, spiraling, and supporting, they pull urgently at one another in a chain of entrances and exits. Something monumental appears to be going on, but what?
Enigmatical upward reaches, and glances pregnant with mysterious intent can be irritating after awhile, especially if we look to dance for entrance into ideas and experiences. With the talent and sincerity evidenced by Matychak and her crew, we may soon feel fully taken in.