When we think of unicorns, we think of little statues and posters on lavender walls and fluffy pillows. The intimate staging of more UNICORN at Space4Art in the East Village at noon on a Saturday had the dreamy quality of the legendary horse creature with a horn growing out of its forehead. Accidental yet directed the dance grew from a belief that magic is inevitable every time.
Performed by Anya Cloud, Eric Geiger, Jess Humphrey and Leslie Seiters, more UNICORN, part two of Unicorn (traces of you linger), was a staging excellent as a live choreographic process and magical as super duets unfolded through Herculean trial and error.
Dressed in variations of sweaters and tunics with golden threads, the dancers complemented wooden beams. Sunshine filtered down through skylights. It was if they were permanent residents.
Speaking to a recording of her own voice, Seiters directed the audience to sit down in unison, making sure our butts touched our chairs at the same time. The whimsical echo effect was only the beginning of a wealth of dance invention.
At first they seemed to be reliving the drudgery of household chores. Their bare feet got dirtier as they collided and pushed each other. We wished for a shift, and it came.
Geiger slapped hands to the beat of a song. They stared at their legs as if they were alien appendages. Sliding feet mirrored the loop tape of scrapes and clunks and odd phrases from dance rehearsals, such as “stay to the right…”
Magic began to sparkle as Seiters and Cloud read choreographic notes. One could imagine learning a dance from a pen pal’s letter or notebook, “…run run turn oh, I don’t know, help me…” Clearly dancing is not as easy as baking a cake.
Dance is athletic and dancers are athletes. Seiters can make dances with dramatic plate slides and has a keen eye for design. Here she and her technically skilled colleagues created arresting dance out of skipping side to side backward and running forward. For longer than seemed humanly possible, Seiters and Humphrey repeated the phrase until it took on a Dervish quality. It was hard to pull away from the rhythms and zigzags, but music by The Supremes and butt wiggles snapped our attention.
Who are these people? Why are they huffing and puffing and flicking their fingers? While I’m not a fan of improvisation as performance, I was hooked by the combination of structures and the unpredictable score. My notes ended as pony hops and foot taps began.
Maybe they were unicorn hops, but the final and most rewarding twist came when pedestrian moves turned into the hip, followed by rolls and deep plies. Two danced, and two waited on the sidelines until one from the side slipped in to replace a dancer. Again and again they switched. Moving in pairs seemed so simple yet, the complexity of coming and going and repetition was wild and elegant, and memorable.
From the program – Director’s notes:
(This is not required reading or even necessarily suggested reading, but I wanted to include it for those who want or enjoy some supplemental materials. Read before show, after, or never).
We move in pairings of persons, actions, and purposes. We attempt simple propositions that reveal complexity. We participate fully in order to get out of the way of what we are making. We play in thresholds of predictability, duration, togetherness, control, repetition and change.
Continuing to be guided by seemingly incongruous pairs prompts me/us/the work to be wider, multidimensional, and not limited by one track, one direction, or one answer. These contradictions are sometimes recognized in retrospect, and are sometimes targeted in our rehearsals:
Rebellious and Responsible
Accessible and Demanding
Pre-made and Being made
Highly Designed and Directed with a Light Touch
Unformed and Directed with a Light Touch
Amateur and Seasoned
Unpredictable and Classical
Elegant and Unsophisticated
Ending Before Finishing and Lingering Too Long
Unintelligible and Logical
Feigned and In Earnest
Last Time and Forever