Can choreographers — or anyone, really — ever make something entirely new? EntirelyYours? With her series “I Am Also,” the dancer and choreographer Molly PoerstelIt reminds us that artists are a collection of influences, a messy mix of past experiences and people. InDance is a form of entanglement that is intimate and deeply rooted within the body. As Poerstel writes of her latest work, “I Am Also – Monte,” referring to the many choreographers with whom she has danced: “Their work exists within my body, therefore, this work is an extension of their minds and bodies.”
The series considers how a dancer’s past seeps into the present and, inevitably, into the work of collaborators. WhenIf a choreographer creates a solo for a dancer it could be viewed as their respective histories multiplied. Through this lens, what might seem like a simple form — the solo — grows exponentially more complex.
WhoseWhat is work? WhereDoes the choreographer stop and the dancer start? How do their identities and interpersonal connection — in the case of “Monte,” as a white woman and a BlackMan (Monte Jones) who have been friends for 25 years — further complicate this relationship?
These questions came to mind as I watched “Monte” in its premiere on Wednesdayat Abrons Arts Center. TheA 45-minute show stars the captivating and candid. Jones, an improviser/housedancer who met PoerstelWhen they were dance majors at college. OverThe past 20 years PoerstelHe has worked with choreographers, including Jeanine Durning, Juliana F. MayRoseAnne Spradlin; Joneshe danced with Ronald K. Brown, Ana King Marlies YearbyAmong others. TheThese influences are acknowledged in program notes. (Jones PoerstelAre credited with choreography PoerstelWith direction and concept.
Seated on the basement theater’s sunken stage, the audience faces a low balcony and the stairs that frame it. JonesHe rushes in and runs down one set of stairs to a pulsing beat that includes samples James Blake’s looping, hypnotic “I Mind.” What feels like stream-of-consciousness movement flows from his lanky frame: liquid house footwork; notes of Latinsocial dance; the churning arms of undulating torsos familiar from Brown’s repertory. AsThe piece progresses. JonesWearing a mask and a voluminous red cape, you’ll move around the two-tiered stage in circles: up one step, across the balcony, and down the other. WithHe draws us in with his off-the-cuff charm and live-wire tenacity.
AtOne point PoerstelJoins for a brief duet, crawling along the floor in an agitated and headbanging sequence. InShe is a tender lull. JonesYou can lie still with your heads touching the ground, but she quickly disappears. Her presence is more evident in the work’s overall construction. LikeMany of the dancers she has performed with use a combination of repetition and non-sequiturs. HereCyclic structures and sudden changes of light or sound capture the persistence of memory, its ability to morph and withstand.
“Monte” does not resolve the questions of authorship it raises; nor, I think, does it intend to. InsteadIt examines the porousness of the relationship among choreographers and dancers, collaborators, and friends. InThe end, as JonesHe shares fragmented stories about his life and expands on that idea outward. WeAre the people we have known, even if they physically are not here anymore. TheyThey are also present in the dance.
I Am Also – Monte
Through Saturdayat Abrons Arts Center, Manhattan; abronsartscenter.org.
Source: NY Times