IMPRESSIONS: Kimberly Bartosik/daela’s “through the mirror of their eyes” at New York Live Arts
March 5, 2020
Choreography and Direction: Kimberly Bartosik
Performance: Dylan Crossman, Burr Johnson, Joanna Kotze with Dahlia Bartosik-Murray, Hunter Liss, Winter Willis
Music: Sivan Jacobovitz // Dramaturgy: Melanie George // Sets and Lighting: Roderick Murray
I’ve seen many things at downtown dance shows (urination, so much nudity), but one thing I rarely see is kids — in the audience and on a stage. Kimberly Bartosik/daela’s through the mirror of their eyes, which made its premiere at New York Live Arts, has both. Regardless if they’re watching or performing, these youths vitalize the experience. For fifty minutes, the future intertwines with the present, and we’re all the better for it.
To gusts of wind, Dahlia Bartosik-Murray (age 13), Hunter Liss (10), and Winter Willis (9) rove onto the stage. They sit against the unadorned back wall, their knees drawn to their chest. Later, in profile, Liss swipes his arms in cryptic loops. The theater is dim, and they are shrouded in shadows, yet their presence registers like moonbeams poking through a pitch-black sky.
Although their first appearance is brief, the youngsters return throughout, in bursts of running, gesturing, and posing. What they do best, though, is to just be themselves — alive and alert to possibilities.
Soon, the lights blaze on, the music blares, and a trio surges from the wings as quick and determined as cheetahs. The two men and one woman heave themselves on, over, and across the space like downtown dance parkour tracers (what the discipline’s practitioners are called).
The stage is their obstacle course, and they use it to lunge and leap, to sprint and spring. Bounding, rebounding, they are always fast, and they are always efficient. For all the heat generated by their exertions, they never lose their cool.
Although a collective, each stands out with a movement signature. Joanna Kotze stretches her long arms into globe-spanning breadth as she unfolds a leg. Burr Johnson soars in stag leaps, one arm whirling. Dylan Crossman has all the nervous energy. Repetitively, he rocks back and forth on his feet like a boxer before the big fight.
At times, the three congregate in partnered phrases, which range from meditative to restless. Like a gymnast on the parallel bars, Johnson dead-lifts himself to gaze over his shoulder, using the bodies of Kotze and Crossman as support. Kotze sinks into Johnson’s arms, extending one leg. Ostensibly, these moments are for catching their breath, but they also plug in to the power of communal energy. They give and they take, creating fleeting equipoises in the process.
The scorched-earth intensity is manifested in the sound and visual design. Sivan Jacobovitz’s score has a three-dimensional feel, revving up like a car engine, urging the piece to go, go, go. Roderick Murray’s lighting design illuminates the theater to noonday brightness or midnight darkness. On each side of the stage, three bars of small, round bulbs hang, like darts of lighting.
When Crossman, Johnson, and Kotze have seemingly reached max capacity, the young dancers reappear, building on and reflecting the themes of the grownups. In a flash of calm before the climax, they interlace their arms in a slow-moving, pretzel-like sculpture.
As the music swells with dramatic, sentimental chords, the cast invites audience members to join the melee. Bartosik-Murray lines everyone up on stage left and slices her an arm through the air — GO! Everyone takes off scampering, which is exhilarating and a little scary, with all the veering bodies and near missing of other bodies.
Crossman, Johnson, and Kotze gather in the center, still bouncing, until everyone, prodded by the kids, forms a loose ellipse. And so it ends to the sound of heavy breathing and shadows flickering on the back wall. They — and by extension, we — have weathered the journey, the kids our North Star that lit the way.