Last night's dance pairing at the Chutzpah! Festival was a study in contrasts, visually and choreographically.
First up were three short pieces by San Francisco-based choreographer Benjamin Levy. I was most taken by the riveting solo co-choreographed with Rachel Lincoln, and danced in a square of white light by an electric Josianne Valbuena, whose opening pulsing and jittering of her body to a score that sounded at once like crackling fire and cleansing rain had me immediately captivated. This was bracketed by a duet and quartet, the dancers, preppy in an American Apparel sort of way, engaging in some interesting but hardly mind-blowing contact improv-inspired movement patterns.
Then it was the turn of Sidra Bell, of New York, who adopted a goth aesthetic for her 35-minute piece, Nudity, sending out her three female and two male dancers androgynously clad in sheer black tops, white face paint and eyelash extensions, and each sporting a long black braid. There were some interesting moments, aided by canny lighting, where Bell drew comparisons between the vertical silhouette of classical ballet and more contemporary subcultural movement styles such as voguing; however, the extended riff on and deconstruction of the regimentation and rigours of dance training went on far too long. And sending her dancers out into the audience not once, but twice, was just plain gimmicky.
There was much besides the volume that needed to be dialed down in this piece.