IMPRESSIONS OF: Johanna S. Meyer's "piece.piece"
at Agnes Varis Performance Lab, Gibney Dance 280
Choreographed by: Johanna S. Meyer
Performers: Hadley Smith, Angie Pittman, Jennifer Allen, Emily Bock, Lailye Weidman and Angelica Soledad
Sound designed by Jeff Zahos
Wednesday, September 9
As audience members queue outside the doors of the Agnes Varis Performance Lab—the small whitebox on the ground floor of Gibney 280—one open door provides a glimpse of a dancer rearranging chairs within the performance space. Other dancers move through the assembled crowd, setting props and drinking water. The audience is visibly uncertain about whether the performance has already begun, and that gentle anxiety pervades much of Johanna S. Meyer’s highly entertaining evening-length work, piece. piece.
One of piece. piece’s strongest elements is its configuration within the Performance Lab and the outside lobby. The Lab is narrow and its large double doors remain open to the lobby for most of the evening, giving Meyer an unusually deep field to play with. Dancers walking through the doors and “offstage” into the lobby evoke a camera panning into the wings during a dance documentary. The scale of the performance space suddenly changes. Looking out through the doors feels a bit voyeuristic, and the anxiety-provoking question of what counts as performance resurfaces. But as one dancer rummages through a pile of clothing while another swills an invisible cocktail, the voyeurism fades and is replaced by an invitation to observe.
Meyer’s other main strength is her impeccable sense of timing—comedic and choreographic. The six women who perform the work—Hadley Smith, Angie Pittman, Jennifer Allen, Emily Bock, Lailye Weidman and Angelica Soledad—navigate the Performance Lab with precision and a sense of unadorned calm, linking up in duets, trading places, and hugging the upstage wall. They’re petty without being malicious, clever without being exceptional and desirous without being frantic. When they join together for group unison the effect can be powerfully funny. Sometimes it’s downright powerful.
piece. piece loses momentum about three-quarters of the way through, but its ending image of a dancer steadily unspooling red rope held in her fist over her heart, redeems the emotional lull that proceeds it. During the post-show talkback, Meyer explained that the performance was created by putting together different “pieces” of her work sourced from her past twenty years of dance making. What might have been a confusing jumble of ideas in less experienced hands allowed Meyer to put her choreographic confidence on full display.
Share Your Audience Review. Your Words Are Valuable to Dance.
Are you going to see this show, or have you seen it? Share "your" review here on The Dance Enthusiast. Your words are valuable. They help artists, educate audiences, and support the dance field in general. There is no need to be a professional critic. Just click through to our Audience Review Section and you will have the option to write free-form, or answer our helpful Enthusiast Review Questionnaire, or if you feel creative, even write a haiku review. So join the conversation.