Jacquelyne Boe and Siri Cyan in Color at Basil’s Flatland Gallery, Dec. 1-2, 2017.
Photos by Jeremy Nuncio.
Does any Houston choreographer want to perform in a black box any more? I’ve seen Lydia Hance’s Framers dancing on the Metro, Laura Gutierrez moving through the corners of the back room at the REC Room, Group Acorde at Nicole Longnecker Gallery and the list goes on. Houston dance makers are clearly on the lookout to perform in alternative spaces. It’s a good thing. We all get tired of empty black rooms.
Boe and her fine dancers, Siri Cyan and Britt Wallis, commandeered the space on Dec. 1 & 2 with stunning results. Created especially for Flatland’s three-room gallery, Color spread out across the space with the dancers moving through each room in sweeping floor slides that occurred with such fluid velocity that the audience needed to scurry out of the way. (Dance audiences are still getting used to shows that require them to move around to see the dance.)
The scale of the piece: three dancers—three rooms, broad expansive movement, atmospheric score—worked well.
We mostly know Boe as one of the city’s finest contemporary dancers, but here she shows us that she is also an adept dancemaker. And it was perhaps her highly nuanced movement choices that made Color sing. That and Jeremy Nuncio’s original and evocative electronic score.
Boe had a plan, stating on her website, “The project was conceived through conversations of color theory and the science behind prisms. The choreographic phrases and process were drawn from sourced images of each color of the rainbow, darkness and light. The seven colors and sections of the choreography informed the musical composition, which was composed from ideas around the human connection and experience with color present in everyday life.”
The details of the dance revealed ample doses of character and form, perhaps alluding to the prism idea. Let’s just say there was a lot to look at, and not a bland modern dance movement in the evening.
The way Boe shapes arm gestures resembled exotic antlers, with broken wrists, splayed fingers and slightly bent elbows, lending a sculptural feel to the dancing, and like creatures with antlers, a craggy, near otherworldly majesty. This chiseled texture permeated much of the dance, with a dense level of detail in the upper body counterbalanced by a weighted downward pressure into the ground. Much of the choreography occurred hovering just above the floor. But it was the tension between an ornamental port de bras and lower body grounded-ness that gave Color it’s s kinetic heft.
Boe enlists the fullness of shape without sacrificing momentum or flow. I don’t see that enough on dance stages. Seems we are either all about shape or all about movement.
The structure of the piece, with the dancers shifting between rooms, had a liveliness as well, especially if you moved around to catch what was happening in another room. Even if you didn’t, you could fixate on a single dancer, and see bits and pieces of the other dancers through the crowd in the central hallway. Here, fragmentation was in the plan. We needed to see through and across, and if we chose to get closer to one dancer, we could.
Finally, there was the dancing. Boe looks as if she stepped off an ancient Greek vase; she’s all about delicacy but with an exacting finesse. Wallis possesses an earthy determination and swift technical chops, which make her always exciting to watch. Newcomer Cyan, a ballet dancer now moving into contemporary work, has a faun-like quality, light and feathery, with a strength that comes out of nowhere. The mix mixed well!
Ashley Horn’s cream-toned textured linen jumpsuits gave a visual unity and understated elegance.
As for Color playing out in a gallery space, I am fairly certain that no one missed the lights and seats. It was a great joy to be this close to such fine dancing.