Drigg Productions, presented by Nimbus Dance Works
Brilliant was the first word that came to mind after seeing Smoke Lines, by Drigg Production at Nimbus Dance Works (nimbusdanceworks.org) in Jersey City. Smoke Lines was one of the most professional and compelling dance performances I’ve seen in Jersey City, or really, anywhere. Smoke Lines— quite frankly, I still don’t get the title – explores self, how our identity is composed of layers of self and the difficulty of seeing the true self of another.
This psychological odyssey begins with a short black and white film, Façade – close ups of faces, aloof and beautiful, some sort of fashion shoot but the subjects seem distant from the setting. Everything is about the surface of these women, nothing exists beyond or beneath the visage.
How close to the self is this projection of self? The live dance that follows looks at that question and any answers only unsettle. The same dancers in the B&W footage take the stage. Their movements keep shifting between graceful and spasmodic, which I took as an emotional interpretation of childhood – a dialog with awkwardness until you grow up.
The next piece the same dancers are more sensual, their movement smooth, deliberately sexual. We are seeing the birth of Eros but each dancer seems a different, non-identical projection of this sensual self, they gradually are casting off these changing versions of the self, as one does entering adulthood, trying on then abandoning personas as you grapple with growing.
Smoke Lines featured four core dancers who personified different aspects of the self as it journey into womanhood. The most dramatic and moving piece – the mature woman –seemed to be about work and struggle – it made one gasp them whoop with pleasure, what a great performance. She competed with other dancers to get ahead, her movements had violent undertones, her stress apparent, her anxiety palpable.
Two other dancers – a man and a woman, are older than the four core young women, appear throughout Smoke Lines, as kind of voyeuristic witness to what has been a maturation process of the self. Playing a kind of Greek Chorus counter-point to the action, they appear between pieces, sitting on a stool, smoking an E-cigarette. The man, pointedly, appears after the erotic passage and the woman follows the ode to the stress and anxiety of adulthood. Both appearances signify an approval, although the male has a sexual intent and the woman is more of solidarity, an acceptance of self.
Before the final act, the entire ensemble – including the two older dancers, now forsaking their witness roles – appear, everyone dressed in gray – contrast with the earlier white and black garb the four core dancers wore in the earlier pieces. The dance is very natural movements, earthy, tribal and more primitive – a free-form feel that leaves behind the more ritualistic and civilized forms that preceded. The creation of the self is complete, she’s is the woman inside, human and unadorned, and she acknowledges mortality – you are who you are and you know life is short and you accept the fact you are going to die. Eros thus recognizes and even joins its parallel in life, Thanatos. With this knowledge there comes a feeling of transcendence. Inward love – with all its imperfections – is achieved. The only thing left is outward love and indeed, Smoke Lines finds love.
The final act features only the two older dancers, the two former witnesses, the woman and the man, alone on the stage, no longer voyeurs of the self. They seek something greater, the want the other, they want to fulfill mutual desire. It is not enough to love your self – or to be loved – the self must also love. But the physical always limits this natural extension of the self. The dancers embrace, then recoil. They touch then un-touch. That is the paradox of intimacy, love is touching souls, but we can truly only know our self and no matter how close two people get, you can only get skin to skin. How much beneath the façade even someone you love do you really ever know? Thus, a thin line separates desire from apprehension.
Through movement, gesticulation and expression, Smoke Lines delved into and expressed very complex ideas. I was lost in the oblique, stream of consciousness narrative. This non-verbal expression reminded me of something I always knew. The self is never really you, it is just the act of becoming you. Where ever you go, there you are.
Drigg Productions developed Smoke Lines under a residency program through Nimbus Dance Works. Sadly, only two performances – held in an intimate theater at the Nimbus studios – were held (August 29th & 30th). Smoke Lines deserves a longer run and to be experience by a wider audience. The art scene in Jersey City often flies under the radar compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn, but few dance companies anywhere explore the psychological issue of with such subtlety and depth as Digg Productions and Smoke Lines. Only later did I find out it was their first full-scale production. Like I said, brilliant.