AUDIENCE REVIEW: SYNCHRONICITY by Stephanie Shin/Synchronous
March 10 and 11, 2023
As an audience member exclaimed after the performance, “collective” is a fitting word to describe the five artists of creative lab/performance group Synchronous. Stephanie Shin (choreographer and dance artist), Emily Aslin (artistic associate and dance artist), Celinna Haber, Maya Lam, and Rachel Ha-Eun Lee (dance artists) were unified, open, cooperative, and exemplars of support. They displayed these qualities in body and heart in their performance of SYNCHRONICITY on March 10th and 11th, 2023 at Arts on Site.
Stephanie Shin explained that her work SYNCHRONICITY is about meaningful moments of connection that can be made with anyone - silently. These moments were, and continue to be, extremely significant to Stephanie in her experience as an Asian-American woman living in New York City. While it is easy to avoid making eye contact with strangers in New York City, these silent connections offer comfort, mutual agreement, and a potential lifeline. SYNCHRONICITY also explored whether there is meaning naturally in coincidence, or whether meaning is self-created by us from coincidence.
The intimacy of Arts on Site’s black box was an ideal performance space for SYNCHRONICITY. Much of the piece was dependent on the dancers’ breathing, listening, and unspoken communications amongst one another. Getting such an up-close view of these connections was special, and allowed the audience to notice the subtlest moments.
SYNCHRONICITY opened with all five dancers spaced equidistantly, looking away from each other. They seemed immersed in their own respective worlds. They wore long sleeved collared shirts and long pants in shades of green, yellow and brown. They began shifting their weight back and forward. One by one they broke out of their shifting and began dancing their own phrases. At times they would meet up with one another; each unison moment was surprising, and seamless. All five dancers would not reunite on stage until the work’s final section. They were a powerful collective.
Throughout the piece – which was a mix of group, solo, duet, and trio sections mostly split up between different pieces of music – I most enjoyed seeing interactions such as in the opening. The dancers were acutely aware of one another’s presence. There was a mixture of “conversing” within duet moments, where one dancer would observe another dancer moving…from there, the dancers found their way to partner one another, or manipulate their phrase work to be in close proximity to one another. There was so much listening, which created a calm atmosphere during the work despite how largely and expansively they danced.
The dancers’ movement quality was soft, but powerful. They danced like lapping waves, as they repeated similar movements in their phrases but returned to them slightly differently each time. Like the ocean, they offered a sense of serenity which came from the trust they had in one another. The artists offered quiet moments – such as when they each sat peacefully with their knees raised and parallel and their faces alert and observing. They also offered extreme moments of boldness, such as when Maya Lam continually found ways to run and climb on top of the other dancers in the latter half of the dance, or when Emily Aslin threw her body into expansive, smooth inversions.
When a dance artist was alone on stage, I was drawn in by how they conversed with the negative space around them. Each dancer had such a specificity to their movement choices. I saw motifs of carving, angular arms which arced around the space in front of them, only to then switch to sharp, rapid hand gestures. Maya Lam demonstrated this vividly, particularly in her solo towards the latter half of the piece. Maya rapidly used her hands to manipulate the rest of her limbs to stand up, to then repeatedly fall.
The dancers’ energies jumped between playful and serious. This reflected the wide variety of music pieces that were in SYNCHRONICITY, which ranged from Yaeji/OHHYUK to Instupendo/Kelly Zutrau/Rostam to Michael Wall to Olafur Arnalds to Sylvan Esso. The changing moods reflected the many difference scenarios that the dancers created with on another; each chance encounter with one another was unique.
It never felt like one dancer’s voice was “louder” than one another’s. Their movement voices were organic, strong, unique to each of them yet so beautifully executed with one another. The phrase work seemed perfectly tailored to highlight the strengths of each dancer.
When Stephanie, Emily, Celinna, Maya, and Rachel returned to the space together at the work’s conclusion, they created similar shifts back and forth as in SYNCHRONICITY’s opening. However, in this moment they were collected together in the downstage right corner, rather than spaced out separately. After the whirlwind of a work, it signified to me the mutual agreement that each dance artist had made with one another: that they would be there.