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ChameckiLerner's Visible Content at DTW

by Anne Zuerner
January 20, 2003
Dance Theatre Workshop
219 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-924-0077

ChameckiLerner's Visible Content at DTW

www.dtw.org

Review by Anne Zuerner
January 20, 2003

ChameckiLerner's new work Visible Content, continuing next weekend at Dance Theater Workshop, offers exactly what its title suggests; Rather than movement for movement's sake, it is content for content's sake. No head is tilted, no arm raised, no body falls, unless there is a strong dose of intention behind it. Forget about the blank faced, emotionless post-modern dancers of the last three decades, ChameckiLerner's dancers are expressive if nothing else. What they express, however, is far from typical, or sentimental. Whether or not we relate to their physical tension, or their odd expressions of ecstasy and boredom, what they express is most certainly clear to them, and maybe that is all that matters.


Photo courtesy of ChameckiLerner

The piece is 45 minutes of simultaneous solos for four dancers with no section breaks, besides the occasional fading out of the lights, which immediately fade back on to full, eye-squinting strength, and then back to normal. Each dancer repeats his or her series of phrases in no apparent order; All we know is that the same movements keep resurfacing and by the end of the piece, we know them well. Each phrase is a series of gestures, facial expressions, and small expressive movements. There is little "dancing" in the traditional sense of the word. The gestures and movements that make up Visible Content seem, in the context of the piece, like the sorts of things that Chimpanzees do at the zoo. Yet, these movements could also could be the secret or not so secret tics, and idiosyncratic mannerisms that all of us have, we just don't realize how maniacal they look when emphasized on the stage, strung together without normal speech and "civilized" behavior, which balances everything out. For instance, a dancer waving with both hands, as if to say sarcastically, "Hello there, are you listening?" might have been followed by an old man who has just removed his dentures, followed by a child attempting musical theater stardom, who then collapses to the floor as if suddenly dead. It was all one part hilarious and one part unnerving. It was one part seven year old at the playground, one part cerebral palsy clinic.

All of this neurotic behavior was heightened by the set, costumes, and music which added a feeling of futurism to all of the spastic behavior. The set, by Thomas Sandbichler, was a giant white net that hung from ceiling to floor, creating a virtual-looking wall at stage left. The net was layered and pulled out into peaks of many levels by hot pink strings that ran all the way cross the stage above the dancers' heads, criss-crossing at different angles. The whole thing looked like a computer generated topography map. It was gorgeous.

The costumes, by Nicholas Petrou, were a cross between glam rock and star wars. The dancers, whose faces were powdered a deathly white, wore oversized white leather vests, that had been doused with random spurts of fine pink glitter. Upon their shoulders rested loops and knots of thick rough string, much like what old mops are made out of. On their legs, the dancers wore white tights. They looked like a post-apocalyptic gang that fronts itself as a flashy rock band.

I have never seen a piece with such seemingly simple composition, seem so complicated at the same time, yet present itself so clearly. Using little movement, but excavating that movement rather deeply, ChameckiLerner have created something entirely new.

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