On Sunday, February 10, Buglisi Dance Theatre performed a program of new and old works as part of its 20th anniversary season at the Joyce Theater. Program B featured two premieres, Butterflies and Demons and Zjawa, as well as three older pieces, one of them a classic of Jacqulyn Buglisi’s—Suspended Women.
Unfortunately, I left during intermission due to an upper respiratory infection and missed one of the premieres and Suspended Women. Apparently the latter is not to be missed.
Before leaving, I was able to see beautiful performances by seasoned dancers Martine Van Hamel, Charles Askegard, and Terese Capucilli in Caravaggio Meets Hopper. I’m not exactly sure where or how they met—Caravaggio and Hopper, that is—but the piece had a distinct eye for design. The dancers were mostly in black suits, or button-down shirts with trousers for the men. They wore simple yet beautiful masks at the beginning; these masks consisted of thin slats of wood, about an inch wide, that were stacked parallel to the ground, with about an inch in-between each slat. Van Hamel and Askegard were central characters among a corps of dancers joining and leaving the action on the stage and posing in chairs.
Threshold, a duet for Virginie Victoire Mécène and Kevin Predmore, followed Caravaggio Meets Hopper. The lights rose on a mesh, nude-colored piece of fabric stretched from stage left to right. It was difficult at first to see if there was one body or if there were two bodies writhing and stretching inside this cocoon-like object, but by the time Kevin Predmore crawled in from the wings, it was clear that there was just one form. What followed was an intimate duet (my friend said it was “hot”), featuring a long section during which Mécène stood on Predmore’s back while he crawled on all fours, and plenty of lifting and straddling. Eventually he put her back inside of her cocoon and crawled off-stage.
The fascinating part of the piece, aside from the connection between the two performers, was Mécène’s costume. It was a kind of long, flesh-tone dress that exposed her legs, with loops of red fabric on the front of the bodice. Inside the cocoon, the red fabric around her chest suggested nipples, while outside of it, the loops looked like exposed insides. The effect was interesting rather than gross, and seemed to speak to some kind of revelation or vulnerability.
The final piece I saw, Butterflies and Demons, featured much simpler costumes: pants and shirts for the men, and leggings and shirts for the women. Dedicated to victims of human trafficking, Butterflies and Demons was, fittingly, a dark and serious piece. Relations between the dancers were aggressive, with much chasing and manhandling. The piece ended with the corps collapsing onto the stage, while one man walked across slowly, a woman on his shoulder with her arms extended and hands fluttering. It was a striking image with which to end, partly because of its ambiguity—not necessarily hopeful, but not entirely negative. In fact, this was a commonality between the three dances I watched—not happy, not sad, but definitely dramatic and visually striking.