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IMPRESSIONS: Gwen Welliver's "Beasts and Plots"

IMPRESSIONS: Gwen Welliver's "Beasts and Plots"

Published on April 7, 2013
Ian Douglas

IMPRESSIONS: Gwen Welliver

Beasts and Plots
New York Live Arts
April 3, 2013
Choreography and Performance: Gwen Welliver, Julia Burrer, Beth Gill, Kayvon Pourazar, and Stuart Singer
Sound Composition and Performance: Jake Meginsky and Bill Nace
Costumes: Reid Bartelme
Lighting: Tricia Toliver
Installation:Chris Hennelly
April 8th, 2013

Erin Bomboy for The Dance Enthusiast
Gwen Welliver's Beasts and Plots unfolds like a meander through an early Twentieth Century exhibit of Geometric Abstraction. The shapes of Wassily Kandinsky, the contours of Paul Klee, and the incisive spatial organization of Piet Mondrian converge to create an intellectually stimulating panorama of crisp movement.

Visual art plays a pivotal role in Beasts and Plots. (An electronic installation of Welliver’s sketches flickers in the lobby.) Her movement investigation commenced with the instructions “Line. Fold. Rotate.” as if her dancers were scraps of paper to be fashioned into origami.
Gwen Welliver's Beasts and Plots Dancer: Stuart Singer; Photo Ian Douglas

Welliver drains the body of its third dimension and emphasizes its capacity for angles and edges. Thrust into relief against a white backdrop like an artist’s canvas, the dancers resemble a Greek frieze come to life. Arms extend like an equal sign, knees hinge sharply, and the dancers are often oriented in profile. Although the physical images are spiky, their movements ripple from one joint to another.
Gwen Welliver's Beasts and Plots ; Foreground Dancer : Beth Gill; Photo Ian Douglas
Reducing dance to its pure, geometrical form could be boring, but Welliver injects flashes of mystery. The incandescent Julia Burrer, sporting a horn of woven plastic, bounds across the stage like a unicorn. Wiggling on a rectangle of brown packing paper, Stuart Singer traces his movements with charcoal before curling under it like a child hiding under the covers. At one point, the performers elicit giggles by vibrating goofily in a clump before collapsing to the floor.
Gwen Welliver's Beasts and Plots, Dancer ,Julia Burrer ; Photo Ian Douglas
The sparse musical score showcases Jake Meginsky and Bill Nace huddled in front of two microphones on the stage’s edge. They rattle objects in glass jars and crack open slender metallic cylinders. Their actions, barely visible from much of the audience, appear as deliberate and crucial as the dancers’ motions.
Gwen Welliver's Beasts and Plots Dancers Jullia Burrer,Gwen Welliver, Kayvon Pourazar and Stuart Singer Photo Ian Douglas

Beasts and Plots follows a mysterious logic. Vignettes tumble one after the other without much coherence. Sometimes, a performer enters and eyeballs the action for no discernible reason.The piece ends in an odd spot; after a tender duet with Kayvon Pourazar, Singer backs up extending his arm. It feels like a transition to another scenario, but the lights fade and the audience scrambles to applaud.
Beasts and Plots is often enigmatic, but it’s this very inscrutability that proves mesmerizing.


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