New York Live Arts
New York, New York
November 10, 2017
Cell phones, video cameras, computers and live-feeds, perhaps not the traditional theatrical experience, are integral components of LIKE, the third piece in Zvi Gotheiner’s dance trilogy reflecting on society’s increasing dependency on technology and how that technology shapes our social norms and interactions. Instructed to keep our cell phones turned on and in hand, the audience is invited to participate in a TV reality show, ‘liking’ or ‘not liking’ each dancer in a competition to select a “winner” through a process of elimination. The audience votes and total “likes” are projected on a screen to determine how the piece progresses.
Part sociological experiment, part contemporary dance piece, LIKE provokes its audience to reflect on their own ideas of belonging, social hierarchy, and loneliness while challenging our comfort level with evaluating and judging other people based on our own preferences. When faced with the task of ‘judging’ the first round of the competition based on how much I liked each dancer’s physical ability, I became paralyzed. Each of the 6 dancers in the company is breathtaking, interesting, complex and unique. I loved watching them all for the singular spark of themselves that they bring to their dancing. Phone in hand, bright screen staring up at me, I couldn’t move my finger. Will they see whom I chose? Do they see the running tally? Will they be hurt? Will it affect the rest of their performance? How do I let them know how much I enjoy watching each of them while still selecting only one? I overcame this internal struggle by voting for each dancer several times, and one dancer a few more times than that.
It was all very anxiety producing! But as the piece progressed, I had time to think about how we quickly and seamlessly place our stamp of approval on other people’s lives, ‘liking’ a social media post or photo, feeling a sense of validation and affirmation when people ‘like’ our posts. We post pictures of the food we eat, our pets, our homes, our children, endlessly happy selfies where it looks like every day and every aspect of our lives are magazine perfect. Are we becoming so dependent on the opinions and approval of others, so starving for recognition and the projection of a certain image, that we spend more time crafting that image than creating, and really living, a life?
For the first round, each dancer performs a self-choreographed solo highlighting his or her particular style and nuances of moving. Subsequent rounds involve a group dance choreographed on stage in front of the audience in 3 minutes with a theme provided by an audience member, and monologues showing off each of their ‘characters’ – the teary overly emotional man, the ebulliently thankful girl, the haughty diva. Bonded together by a repetitive music score which added to its reality show feel, LIKE is funny at the same time it is thought provoking. MC’d by a campy, over the top host, played by Alison Clancy, the piece progressed from light to dark as the pressure to be seen, recognized, better than the rest became an obsession. Clancy’s biting, witty, and sometimes inane comments, a hilarious spoof on the reality TV world, turned to hysteria as the competition continued. Cracking under the weight of superficiality, Clancy drove home the point of community in this modern age.
With his signature mix of cutting edge contemporary movement and provocative subject matter, choreographer Gotheiner continues to meld the expressive power and sociological pertinence of dance as vehicle for cultural evolution.