Review: Dancers Fighting for Their Place in a Dystopian World
At the end of Miguel Gutierrez’s “I as another,” a familiar thought hangs in the air. At the New York premiere, Lyra Franklin, whose concepts are explained through words rather than actions. It opens with a narration in which Gutierrez asks, “Were you expecting something different?”
Franklin: “Did you want to change?
Gutierrez: “Why can’t you?”
Ultimately, a strong drumroll came from Stevie Nicks. “Sable on Blonde”.
Where are we? It could be a dance floor in outer space. “I as another,” performed at the Baryshnikov Art Center, is Gutierrez’s second dance (out of three) to perform in New York City this spring. Released last month, “Cela Nous Concerne Tous” (“This concerns us all”) is an increasingly raucous production by the Ballets de Lorraine that reimagines riot. In 2016, in collaboration with choreographer Ishmael Houston-Jones, the third installment “Variations on the Theme of Lost and Found: John His Berndt Life Scenes and Other Works” will be released on May 25th at his Dance Space Project. arrive at
With his new duet, Gutierrez offers something more scaled-down and intimate. But it often makes the eyes look too big. (And, like in “Cela Nous Concerne,” there’s more pink light and fog, and it feels less like a signature look than an all-too-obvious echo.) In “I as another,” , Gutierrez is in charge of sound design, text, costumes and choreography. He wears a purple top and shorts along with bright green Franklin. In this scenario, Gutierrez is the elder of dance and Franklin represents the new generation.
He draws inspiration from the writings of the Martinique philosopher Edouard Glissant and his thoughts on opacity that the oppressed have the right to remain unknown. In “I as another” the dancers avoid revealing who or who they really are. Either way, they look sad.
There is music by Willie Colon (“Gitana”). In short, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine (“Words Get in the Way” is kind of a joke in this word heavy experience). Knicks, of course. It’s fitting that her song begins with the lyric “learning to be a stranger.” One thing “I as another” seems to point out is that we are all strangers. In “Sable on Blonde” the dancers perform a repeating pattern. She slides left and right, dives forward, raises her knees for balance. Strangers on stage balance separately but in unison.
At times the dancers’ presence is down to earth, but at other moments they seem to float above the stage, hanging like a constant question. Their environment is special. Lighting by Carolina Ortiz Herrera render setting. It may be the future. Behind them is a large structure with square lights that fills most of the back of the stage, like a Lite-Brite toy.
Darkness can obscure their bodies into grainy silhouettes as they walk the stage in curves and straight lines. They relive past memories and explore stages. Gutierrez paces, opening and closing his arms like silky ribbons, while Franklin rolls to the floor, rolls backwards onto his shoulder stand, and flogs his leg sideways.
They have a sweet and hilarious chemistry as they keep asking questions back and forth — where are you from? where are you now? where are you going – I’m tired. However, it’s the rhythm that sets the tone for how it will end up. That is, trigger and tension. Towards the end, their hand and arm gestures become fragile into fists and sharp elbows. Their gait is jerky, slipping from one direction to the next. Eventually they slow down, meet mid-stage, and an extended narration at the end (including some of Gutierrez’s best writing) takes over, repeating questions from the beginning and adding more.
“I think I’ve learned how to act honestly,” Gutierrez says. Franklin replied: I think I can learn how” – and both of their voices complete the sentence – “Pretend to be true.”
Can you guess something about someone? In contrast, “I am a different person”, especially in the final text of the one-liner that begins with the words “Looks like you”, is “You seem to understand the way things are” or ” You look like ‘I’m more curious than you provide an overwhelming no. “
Statements become sharper, darker and more interesting.
Instead of narration, the two speak from the stage in the piece’s final moments, again wondering where they are. You can know something
Until Sunday at the Baryshnikov Art Center. bacnyc.org