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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Verbal Animal premieres "triptych, mirrored" at Triskelion Arts
May 26 - 28, 2022
A rope lays across the stage. As the crowd get settled on their seats, a performer, later revealed to be a Shibari artist, drags it across to the back of the room, immediately breaking the separation between audience and performers. Five bodies appear on stage. One of them pulls the rope back to them. Just like that, we are pulled into their world: a world showcasing deep intimacy, struggle, anxiety and companionship. Movement builds on repetition and patterns that grow in intensity and desperation.
Verbal Animal, led by creative director Lavy, is a New York City Based immersive performance company. The cast includes dancers/collaborators Beatriz Castro, Abby Rose Chenard, Cassidy Grady and Bailey Yates, as well as Shibari Artist Ester Shmulyan. The show also presents sound design by Levi Thompson and lighting by Conor Mulligan. Choreography is credited to the collaborative effort of all artists involved.
In an interview with Beatriz Castro, a lead dancer in the show, I was able to learn more about the creative process behind the show:
“The piece was made collaboratively between all members of the company and that was very exciting but it forced many things out of you. How to respectfully express disagreement, how to not take things personally when your ideas don’t resonate with the others. We all had a common vision but definitely different approaches and creative methodologies, so compromise was a big theme. It also fostered this lovely perseverance, to keep trying to find that one step, transition or idea that we all agreed on, that missing puzzle piece that felt ‘right’ for everyone.”
In relation to the piece’s use of Shibari, the traditional practice of Japanese rope bondage, Castro shared: “Cassidy had been tied in Shibari before by Esther, she introduced us to her and we all expressed interest in the idea of the bound body and the possibility to experience freedom within that boundness. The relationship the rope created between movement limitation, torture and stillness. It is incredibly rich in history and legacy. It’s often sexualized, especially in the West, however the practice is deeply somatic and is also performance art. This art form has many aesthetic keynotes such as symmetry, restraint, and suspension. There is a strong sense of lineage and respect for those who came before you, so I think we were all naturally attracted to the discipline and similarities between dance and Shibari”
Originally from Costa Rica, Catro is a skilled performer that beautifully threads sharpness and suspension in her advanced technical performance. Her dynamic performance beautifully accompanies Verbal Animal’s choreography, which uses solos, duets and trios falling in and out of unison. The result is a visually beautiful demonstration of dancing bodies negotiating the way they relate to each other- not only in space but in a range of emotion that varies from a desperate tug of the rope, to the deep connection that threads through it, to the careful wrapping around the dancer's bodies.
While the company is still young, it is definitely one to keep an eye on. I am excited to see how their work develops and I am left curious as to what else they will bring to the stage.