IMPRESSIONS: Nadine Bommer Dance Company's “SEPIA: The Aquarium Version” at the Bromley

IMPRESSIONS: Nadine Bommer Dance Company's “SEPIA: The Aquarium Version” at the Bromley
Theo Boguszewski

By Theo Boguszewski
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Published on April 11, 2017
Photo: Eyal Landesman

Presented: Nadine Bommer Dance Company and The Bromley

Choreography: Nadine Bommer

Sound: Nevo Yemini

Costumes: Inbal Ben Zaken

Performed: Jamison Goodnight, Delphina Parenti, and Sammy Roth

Thursday, March 29th, 2017 at 8pm

Future performances of SEPIA: The Aquarium Version will take place on May 11, 12, 25 and 26

For tickets and details go to Nadine Bommer Dance

Nadine Bommer Dance Company presents the interactive SEPIA: The Aquarium Version at its home space The Bromley, an apartment-turned-performance space on West 83rd Street. Titled The Aquarium Version for the venue’s fishbowl-like shape and panoramic windows, the work is an immersive adaptation of the piece SEPIA, which premiered in Tel Aviv last June.

Stanchions blocking the performance space are pulled away at the piece’s start to reveal a massive area surrounded by windows, through which we can vaguely see the dark world beyond. We are invited to walk around and experience the work from different angles, though for the most part everyone stayed seated.

Jameson Goodnight is the first dancer to emerge, creeping out from behind a pillar on stage right. Slow, squirmy walks glide her across the space. Her feet creep along the floor, and she holds her bent arms at chest height where her fingers articulate like tiny tentacles. Two more dancers materialize in this stunned, creature-like manner. Sammy Roth smears herself on the ground like a worm while Delphina Parenti twitches anxiously like a tiny rodent looking around for predators.

Slowly, the dancers become more frantic and predator-like. Their focus is inward, never acknowledging the audience and rarely one another. It feels as though we are peering inside the strange world of an aquarium. Nevo Yemini’s soundscape is sparse and atmospheric, outlining the feeling of being underwater.

A dancer snarls in a unitard and ikat printed jacket. Two other dancers crouch and embrace in the background.
Photo: Paul B. Googe

Finally, after many minutes of fascinating character development and transformation, the dancers move together. These moments of unison and clear formation are rare, which makes them stand out.

No boundaries limit the choreography, and seldom do the dancers execute the same movement twice. The wide range of motifs draws from many influences. They easily evolve into various creatures: an insect, a dinosaur, a wrestler, a modern dancer . . .  

Parenti transforms into a ballerina in an angular solo, so off-balance and challenging that it evokes Balanchine. She flicks her limbs in all directions, her astonishing extensions contrasting with quick little bourrées and low, animalistic crawls.

Roth’s transformation is, perhaps, the most memorable. Guttural hisses and grunts that seem to arise from the depth of her soul develop into hysterical shrieks and eventually an incoherent monologue.

Roth addresses us as both a prophet and a rabid demon. She speaks gibberish, but it feels pointed, personal, her intense energy directed outward as though she is admonishing us. The experience is as terrifying and intimate as being yelled at by a crazy person on the train.

A unitard clad dancer executes a high developpe while two others swivel down to the floor
Photo: Paul B. Googe

Her petrifying, ravenous energy slowly begins to influence the others. The women have seemingly discovered their fierce but terrifying power.

Goodnight and Parenti remove their shirts and perform a vaguely sexual duet where they shift weight together, faces pressed toward one another. In one visceral motif, Roth sandwiches herself between them, inserting her head into their hollowed-out bellies.

An underlying sexuality pervades the piece that can manifest itself in more explicit gestures. The dancers line up vertically, gesturing their arms like the Indian goddess Durga. The one in the middle stretches her palm through the legs of the woman in front.

SEPIA lacks a clear structure although its performers arc from domestic to wild. As it builds toward a climax, the physicality intensifies. In unison, the women contort into stunning backbends, looking back toward us in a rare acknowledgement. Long, daring slides across the wood floor build into obsessive shaking and a gesture of frantically gathering an invisible substance. The piece ends as the women crawl together offstage in a heaving, rabid puddle.

SEPIA could become monotonous or self-indulgent with its loose framework and endlessly evolving movement motifs. However, the performers are diverse in their explorations and entirely committed to their characters, thus, holding us captive the entire time. Bommer’s work is like nothing experienced before.

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