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A review of Jeremy Nelson - SightUnseen and Wythoff's Array

by Anne Zuerner
October 20, 2002
New York, NY

Jeremy Nelson - SightUnseen and Wythoff's Array

By Anne Zuerner
October 20, 2002

Jeremy Nelson's choreography is proof that although dance is rooted in the body, movement does not have to be emotional, or dramatic to be effective. On Thursday night, Nelson offered us a glimpse of his grand experiment in line, direction, and initiation with two pieces at St. Mark's Church. The first, "SightUnseen," was a premiere for seven dancers with music by Douglas Henderson. The second piece, "Wythoff's Array," with music by Guy Yarden, was created for eighteen dancers at Connecticut College, and reworked for twelve dancers for this engagement. All costumes were by Kathy Kaufman, and the set, which transformed between pieces, was by Luis Lara.


Jeremy Nelson

Photo courtesy of Tom Brazil

Nelson's choreography is naked. His unadorned movement exposes the human body as the great machine that it is. His dancers do nothing in excess. They barely break a sweat or gasp an audible breathe as they twist, jump, and fall to the floor with a quick, smooth silence, as if dancing on cushions. Facial expression is downplayed so much that each dancer seems to either say, "look at my body, not my eyes," or "I really don't care whether you watch me or not." Their facial expressions go beyond the typical, disinterested cool that is so popular with post-modern choreographers; they dance as if they were stating facts rather than expressing interpretations of the world. Their effort is utilitarian, much like the quality of energy a person would use in skillfully constructing a bookshelf. Despite avoiding all things traditionally theatrical, such as drama, emotional expression, narrative, or even traditional modes of composition, such as cannon, unison, or symmetry, Nelson still manages to create dances that are incredibly engaging, full of smart inventions, witty phrasing, and surprising impulses of motion.

Nelson makes no reference to the world outside of his dances, besides perhaps the physical, or chemical world familiar to scientists. His compositions create a language unto themselves, flirting with various unexpected possibilities for linear and sequential movement. Although he uses very little unison or symmetry, his complex layers of movement are never overwhelming. They are so deliberately constructed that they unfold with a steel edged clarity, exciting the viewer with every new vector of motion. His phrasing is always cushioned by stillness, slow deliberate movement and walking, allowing space and time for his audience to digest formations and continuums of momentum.

The two pieces seemed more like stops along one journey, rather than separate ideas with independent themes. His theme is the movement itself, which grows more intriguing as the night progresses, no matter the title, costume, or music. Both pieces were smart, well crafted and fascinating to watch. As far as the costumes were concerned, it was obvious that Kaufman had put much more time and preparation into the first piece than she did the second piece. In "SightUnseen," the dancers wore clean pants with colorful lines and flat fronts. They were neither wide, like the overused "postmodern dance pants," nor did they resemble something any old person would wear on the street. In "Wythoff's Array," dancers looked as if they had scrounged for their favorite rehearsal clothes, or some street clothes they thought they could dance in. The hodge podge of styles and colors was a bit distracting and much less sophisticated than the creations for "SightUnseen."

Both musical compositions suited Nelson's spare style well. Douglas Henderson's minimal rock drumming lended a hipness to the cool expressions of the dancers, while Yarden's soft noisiness added texture to the open landscape of movement across the stage. Luis Lara's set design was also well matched to Nelson's style. Its geometry was organic at the same time that it was square and precise. It added a depth and broad groundedness to the work.


Go to www.danspaceproject.org for more information.

Danspace Project
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
Information: 212-674-8112
Fax: 212-529-2318
Reservation: 212-674-8194

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