28 August 2015 02:26PM
I don’t think I don’t understand modern dance. I’m not even sure it’s necessary to “understand” dance, modern or classical, to enjoy it. But despite the talkbacks, which I tend to resist and rarely find as enlightening or enlivening as the performances, there was a lot to enjoy last Saturday afternoon at PS21. For one thing, it was an introduction to one terrific choreographer, and a revisit with another. (I missed the third, Vincent E. Thomas, who performed his own solo work-in-progress “Bow”; I was late.) All three are alumni of Dance Omi, an idyllic, unpressured, and clearly productive place for choreography and choreographers to develop.
I love Shandoah Goldman’s (literally) cheeky underpants piece “23 Skidoo,” first performed next to a building I love too—the Flatiron in Manhattan. “Ferrum,” the new piece, features all parts of the body, including the face, which is not something you see move much in dance. It’s witty, sometimes even silly, but always engaging, and as the audience seemed to get, the four female dancers, dressed in what looked like the antiseptic blue uniforms of factory workers until they stripped to their bras and underpants (recurring theme?) were ordinary folk. Goldman, accompanied by a well-dressed male partner, trailed royal (!) blue silk, wielded a megaphone, and embraced a few randomly chosen men in the audience. So … royalty, loosely defined. I’ll spare you the program note, an attempt to define the title. The piece itself is less convoluted and more fun.
And then … the talkback. While Goldman, her dancers, and Dance Omi Director Christopher K. Morgan asked and answered questions, all leading to pretty much the same place, Nicole Wolcott placed sheets of newspaper in even rows on the floor behind them, which served to punctuate the discussion with a bit of subtext. When the talkers and chairs had been cleared, Wolcott gathered up what she had just laid down until she was overwhelmed. Everything that happened subsequently was organic and inevitable; also extremely funny and extremely touching, with no need for literal translation. It’s the best kind of dance, understood intuitively. I didn’t read the program note for Wolcott’s piece until just now, which says that “Memory,” an excerpt from “Paper Pieces” is about memory loss, which makes sense, but so does the dance. I had to leave before her talkback; I don’t think I missed anything.