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Terrain - Terminal

by Jacqueline Barba
January 30, 2009
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012
212-431-9233
Performance by: Terrain
Choreographed by Rebecca Lazier
Performers: Jennifer Lafferty, Rommel Salveron, Emily Stone, Storme Sundberg, Christopher Williams
Rebecca Lazier admits that part of Terminal's intent is to discomfort its audience. The installation piece, which debuted last weekend at the Joyce Soho, is meant to evoke a landscape, or a waiting room, or the feeling of being in-between, or the feeling of waiting for death; all that's certain in Terminal is the ambiguity. Lazier's choreography—its emphasis on sudden movement that pulls back, at an instant, into contained control—was matched with a soundtrack of static superimposed over Ravel's Bolero melody, then set within 4 walls that work together as an all-around projection screen. The resulting performance was less a visual experience than a sensory experiment—one that transcended its inherent contrivance to create a real and recognizable portrait of an emotional moment (as evidenced, I think, by the audience's occasional squirming).

Under Lazier's supervision the far end of the performance space at the Joyce Soho was transformed into a square white room. Morphing images of static were simultaneously projected onto the plexi-glass walls. The images ranged from small protoplasmic shapes to larger aggressive scribbles, from landscape-like shadows to swelling lines like sound graphs. The projections alternately soothed and jarred, but the piece was granted its real emotional quotient by a simple but effective manipulation of sound. The four dancers of Terminal entered the performance space carrying handheld tape players which tinnily blared the static soundtrack. The dancers inched their way across the space to place their players at the four corners of the room, at which point Lazier's audio director, Gregory Spears, slowly began to raise the volume on the ceiling speakers. Suddenly the audience found itself inside the sound, which had, unexpectedly, grown to fill the space all around us.

The dancers, too, started off slowly, working toward one another from opposite corners, crossing the room to meet in the middle—but their meet was a miss. In slow motion they shrunk away from one another in an achingly fragmented reenactment of pedestrian politesse on crowded sidewalks, in crowded terminals. In the wide empty space the missed contact conveys a cold loneliness, and this is the resounding theme of Terminal: an inability to comfort or connect which results in overwhelming aloneness.

Dancers Jennifer Lafferty, Rommel Salveron, Emily Stone and Storme Sundberg adeptly expressed this awkward disconnect, using small, strange movements: the stiff shaking of a downward pointed hand, for instance, or a sudden jolt upward from a slow, slinking bend. As the music increased in its intensity, the dancers took frantic turns about the room, pairing off with one another, breaking apart, and breaking into other pairs in search of someone to partner. As the music reached its climax, both the static images and the movement plateaued; the melody of Bolero blared as the static stilled and the dancers separated, collapsed, avoided one another's eyes. Sundberg stood in the center, shaking, looking horrified and frightened by the action that had occurred.

In reviewing a performance like Terminal it is so tempting to sum up neatly and completely what it meant, or what it means. I should admit that I'm still not entirely sure. But the comment of one viewer nicely summed up the experience for me: "I couldn't identify by name what was happening," she said, "but I felt that I'd felt like that before."
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