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Wally Cardona at Danspace Project

by Anne Zuerner
January 12, 2003
Danspace Project
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue)
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
New York, NY 10003
(212) 674-8112

Wally Cardona at Danspace Project

Review by Anne Zuerner
January 12, 2003

For Morph: Live Remix (2002),Wally Cardona, along with his collaborators, Maneswar Cheemalapati, Maya Ciarrocchi, Douglas Fanning, Roderick Murray, and Mike Schroff, transformed the sanctuary of St. Mark's Church more than I'd ever seen it transformed before. Usually a gentle open space for worship, Morph: Live Remix hardened the sanctuary's simple structure into a steely art-making laboratory, located somewhere in a nearby galaxy. Ambient electronic sounds bounced off pillars, while altered videos of dancers scaled the walls. Silver frame-like structures hung from the ceiling, shaping the space like a set of low hanging rafters. Giant boxy lights lined the floor while white and black rectangles divided it. Electronic musicians peered down at turn tables, laptops, and, mixers set upon three tables with wires spilling over onto the floor, like fumes from test tubes. This scenario promised that something interesting would happen, and if not, the space itself had already proved itself as a sophisticated work of art.


Wally Cardona Quartet
Photo courtesy of Greg Fuchs

The program encouraged the audience to move about the space during the performance, as long as we avoided the white rectangles on the floor. As the four dancers emerged, dressed in solid colored costumes with white lines, done by Jill Anderson, moving about with straight arms and legs, it became apparent that this piece is primarily an experiment with mixing lines: line as medium, line that shapes space, lines jutting out at all angles, straight arms and legs, lines of vision combing and recombining in infinite ways, mixing visual, tangible lines with each other and with both music and dance tracks, and mixing mediums. The dance itself is made of ten dance "tracks" or sections of set choreography that are recombined each night, eliminating the usual rise and fall of action that occurs in a crafted work and opening the door to chance, where spontaneity and surprise are the main creators.

Because the audience was told to sit wherever they please, some chose to sit in the middle of the floor, shaping the space in a new way, while dancers walked among them from white rectangle to white rectangle, preparing to perform the next dance "track". As the audience shifted about the space, the randomness of this added motion fit nicely into the sporadic dynamics of Cardona's choreography. As an audience member, moving about the space rejuvenated me as a viewer. By relocating my focus, I changed the way I watched the piece each time I moved, creating my own "sections" within the choreography. Having the power to move about also added a voyeuristic feeling to the experience of Morph: Live Remix. When watching dance, perhaps a performer can spot an audience member seated in the darkness, maybe they can even make eye contact. When the audience is free to move, the separation between the audience and the performer feels more absolute than the traditional proscenium/audience divide; The dancers are trapped while the audience is free. Although the dancers move, their movement is more or less prescribed, and the space in which they move is more limited than the audience's space. We surrounded and circled the dancers like sharks. Watching Morph: Live Remix is a bit like visiting the zoo, peeking into a cage of dance.

Cardona's movement has an air of improvisation to it, as if, even within set tracks of choreography, the dancers are riding the waves of their impulses. The movement is raw, and sexual, with little unison throughout the piece. At times, it seems intentionally awkward, especially during partnering sections, which seem more like wrestling matches than pas de deux. The dancers stare out into the space as if they had just landed on a new planet, confused and astonished.

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