Schimmel Center at Pace University, New York, NY; March 28, 2015
Cecly Placenti and Jerry Hochman
Imagine mythical creatures appearing out of a swirling mist, or what it’s like to catch glimpses of a faraway boat on an ocean covered in fog, and you get the idea of the visual effects of TAKE Dance’s There and Here. Done without the special effects of fog machines or magic, choreographer Take Ueyama manages to create an ethereal world of softness and grace where bodies seem to touch the air around them with reverence and holiness.
According to the program notes, There and Here is a “work that explores the process of life and the nature of the afterlife.” Rising out of the darkness of the theater in a barely perceptible physical alteration, a woman begins to move, as if being born, hardly disturbing the air around her. At first we thought our eyes were playing tricks on us and we didn’t in fact see anything at all, but suddenly another dancer floats out of the slowly dawning light as if she had always been there and it was us that were slow to notice.
It was the same for composer and musician Kato Hideki who suddenly appears in a rectangle of soft light, floating above the stage, performing his ambient, other worldly sound score. As dancers begin to enter and exit, it is always with the least amount of ostentation so that bodies and groups melt and reform seamlessly. The movements at the outset are very meditative and slow, deliberate and ephemeral, and the piece overall has a very hypnotic feel.
On a platform covered in what looked like sawdust and set only with a large moon-like rock in the upstage corner, the dancers move in and out of groups and patterns, sometimes including and embracing each other, and at others turning away and aggressively shunning. The smooth easy movement quality is sometimes peppered with bursts of percussive, tribal syncopation and combative movements, reminding one of the human penchant for conformity and ostracization of those that don’t quite fit in. Periodically, more sawdust falls from the sky in a straight narrow line, like sand through an hourglass, marking the passage of time and the reflection of a life’s history.
The dancers seem to move through this snapshot of life highlighting various elements of the human condition: love, hate, mistrust, anger, community, loneliness and the driving need to fit in and yet stand out. The moments of fast, athletic, unison dancing are especially pleasing as they contrast the piece’s overall hypnotic, lulling movement quality. There is a particularly combative and aggressive male duet, a struggle between two alpha characters perhaps or a symbol of the animalistic need for power and control, that is beautiful and raw. To audience members who do not see the subtle and intricate nuances in Ueyama’s choreography, There and Here may look inordinately slow and ponderous. However, it does not drag and the journey from birth to afterlife is done in a relatively short period of time.
With no intermission, There and Here feels very much like a journey through time and space. The level of commitment and quiet power each one of these dancers possesses is breathtaking; they are each one captivating performers. As a long-time fans of The Paul Taylor Dance Company, we were delighted to see veteran dancers Orion Duckstein and Amy Young alongside Ueyama and Jill Echo again. Duckstein has always drawn attention with his commanding presence, easy grace and strength, and Young with her serene, innocent charm. While the other dancers’ faces are not stern but serious, Young has this look of wondrous joy, a half smile playing in her eyes and on her lips throughout. To her the journey, whether of just the earthly life or the transition from life to the afterlife, seems a wonderful gift, and a pleasing adventure.
As always with TAKE Dance, the journey from lights up to lights out was also a wonderful gift and a pleasurable adventure. We look forward to seeing more from Take Ueyama and his group of superb dancers.