During a shared evening between Brian Carey Chung’s Collective Body/Dancelab and Paula Frasz’s Danszloop Chicago at Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, I was reminded of how dance can be a language to deliver a message. Both Chung and Frasz’s used vivid theatricality in their choreography.
The evening opened with Chung’s Let’s Pretend We’re All Wearing Sunglasses, which brought attention to human apathy by focusing on themes such as the abuse of women to legalized dog fighting. In “hipster-like” costumes designed by Karen Young, the dancers moved in angular and at times jarring movements across a floor of newspaper designed by Posy Knight. Throughout the piece, the artists spoke concerns and observations into a microphone. They took the microphone away from each other and moved away from it in a way that showed how our voices are not always heard when dealing with strong and difficult issues. As humans, we have become desensitized to events happening in the world around us, and often we forget that we can indeed have a voice. Coached by Ellie Heyman, Chung’s dancers executed the vocals exceptionally well; their commitment to the words and the message they were conveying were clean and to the point. One quote summed up the piece, “You can’t fix all these problems, but you can make people aware.”
Chung’s second work, Bloom, raised relational issues. With music by Arvo Pärt, lighting by Brandon Wardell, and costuming by Karen Young, heterosexual and homosexual storylines played out, addressing themes of emotional betrayal. The dancers in the piece were as strong technically as they had been theatrically in the first piece of the evening. Dancing both on flat and en pointe in a series of group sections, duos, and trios, the ladies lines were clean and beautiful, and the men expertly achieved Chung’s demanding movement.
The highlight of the piece was “Section 2,” danced by Giorgia Bovo, Clifton Brown, and Micah Savin. The dancers moved as if they had no bones with a beautiful and sensual quality. They expressed clearly the happiness and the sorrow of love discovered and lost.
The performance marked the New York debut of Chicago based choreographer, Paula Frasz. Her company, Danszloop Chicago, presented three of her works. Each had elements of humor.
Old Woman of Wexford was danced to music by the Clancy Brothers, Women of Ireland, and Yo Yo Ma. The trio, danced by Paul Christiano, Margaret Reynolds, and Todd Rhoades, utilized walking patterns to which morphed into sustained extensions, skillful partnering work, and acute use of athletic and adagio movement.
Entrainment, danced by statuesque Shannon Nash Spicer, had the long-limbed dancer in a pas de deux with a long fabric train. At times, it was wound around her tightly as a dress, and then would be unwound to show its length. She manipulated and moved the train sensually.
In her Frasz’s final work, Eater of Hearts, Paul Christiano sported a long paneled skirt, and delivered an incredibly masculine performance. His crisp and deliberate attack manipulated the fabric, creating success moments of humor. The piece was based on an Alice Walker quote, “Never offer your heart to one/ who eats hearts/ Who finds heart-meat delicious/ but not rare/ Who sucks the juices drop by drop/ and bloody-chinned, grins/ like a God.” Frasz powerful choreography brought an intriguing twist to this phrase and left me wanting more of her work.