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As I pull myself up with arms outstretched in front of me, I sense, more than I see, five gorgeous strong women to the right of me, dancing in unison. For a moment they are my backup dancers. I am performing a phrase alone on Side A that I have just done part of on Side B as a duet. I take a breath to cherish this moment before moving on. I am loving everything about dancing in Vicky Shick’s Everything You See, last week at Danspace Project.
Jodi Bender at right
The two sides are separated by a translucent screen, giving the divided audience three sets of activities to behold: the dancers in front of them, the dancers on the other side of the screen, and the audience on the far side. The screen was devised by Barbara Kilpatrick, who also masterminded the wildly whimsical costumes. Her whole idea of what “matches” defies conventional taste. (Some noted that my bubble-wrap tutu went particularly well with my glasses.)
Olsi and me
Vicky and I have danced in each other’s pieces from way back. I agreed to do this project because she said we could work together on weekends and that it was OK to wear my glasses. By stepping up my daily exercises a bit (and doing deep pliés at the Xerox machine), I was able to tap back into my dancer self—after 13 years as an editor. Needless to say, I don’t have the range, strength, or quality of movement that I had years ago. But I could feel that old physical alertness come back: the devotion to preparing your body to be a vessel for expression, that feeling of caring which way the palm is facing or how many seconds to wait before starting the next movement.
Standing, left to right: Laurel Tentindo, Jodi Bender, Donna Costello, Olsi Gjeci. On floor: Lily Gold, Heather Olson.
I love how the flesh-on-flesh grit of working in the studio leads to a special kind of intimacy with other dancers. Most of the 10-person cast I didn’t know before, and now I’ll never forget them. We are bonded in this unique experience and in our love of Vicky’s work: intricacy, oddness, impulsiveness; also subtle moments of humor, a seamless blend of dance and everyday gesture, and allowing each dancer to blossom as an individual.
I love the quiet time of tuning in to your body before the show—and then the bawdy dressing room humor. Because of the nerve-wracking no man’s land of uncertainty for the choreographer, last-minute problems have to be solved collectively. Vicky got crazed and scattered before we opened, and it only endeared her to us more.
I loved watching from the sidelines when I wasn’t dancing. Even with the sidelights blotting out my line of vision, I could see each dancer rising to a heightened state of mind/body.
(My fellow cast members were Jodi Bender, Donna Costello, Olsi Gjeci, Lily Gold, John Kinzel, Marilyn Maywald, Heather Olson, and Laurel Tentindo, and of course, the inimitable Vicky Shick.)
Moments I remember: Olsi swatting his legs in big, folk-dance type moves; Lily doing her crazy, one-legged skip around the perimeter; Vicky’s elegantly louche solo; Laurel whipping through the space like a small hurricane; Heather throwing her head back; Marilyn atop the table, looking over her shoulder. And these moments while onstage: improvising a trio crossing with Olsi and Jodi; Donna facing me, on the other side of the screen, bending like a willow; Jon standing solid as I lean toward and away from him.
Marilyn Maywald and Jon Kinzel. All photos by Anjola Toro.
As we started tech rehearsal, with Carol Mullins’ lights and Elise Kermani’s evocative sound mix, the feeling that I was part of something beautiful came over me. I mean not just pretty to the eyes, but the sensations of being part of this strange fabric of commotion with only the faintest hint of narrative. We were creating an environment that stimulated the audience to choose what they were seeing, to assemble their own poetry.
To see Time Out NY’s excellent slide show of the piece, click here.