One of the most inventive and innovative contemporary dance companies in the world, Australia’s Chunky Move will be staging the New York premiere of the hour-long Connected November 2-6 at the Joyce. A collaboration between company artistic director Gideon Obarzanek and California sculptor Reuben Margolin, Connected eschews Chunky Move’s usual fascination with digital technology, kinetic motion tracking, and brilliant light displays in favor of a more hands-on approach to building a work of art with dancers and physical, graspable objects. We can’t get enough of this company, having seen the decidedly low-tech I Like This in April at Joyce SoHo, Mortal Engine at BAM in 2009, and Glow at the Kitchen in 2008. Connected is performed by five dancers — Sara Black, Ross McCormack, Marnie Palomares, Joseph Simons, and Harriet Ritchie — with music by Oren Ambarchi and Robin Fox, lighting by Benjamin Cisterne, and costumes by Anna Cordingley. “I was fortunate to meet Reuben Margolin in October, 2009 in Maine USA, where we were both invited to speak at PopTech, a conference focusing on social change through current innovations in science, art and economics,” explains choreographer Obarzanek in a program note. “There, I witnessed Reuben’s various sculpture machines made of wood, recycled plastic and steel transcend their concrete forms once they were set into motion and appear as waveforms in nature — a weightless kinetic flow. This was not dissimilar to the changeability of a dancer from a person to a moving figure when performing on stage. We were immediately drawn to each other’s work and began discussing possibilities for future collaboration.” Connected is the initial result of that partnership.
Update: Chunky Move founder and artistic director Gideon Obarzanek and his Australian company regularly employ gadgetry in their works. Glow consisted of a single dancer performing on a motion-sensor floor that emitted a dazzling LED display, Mortal Engine let loose with a spectacular flurry of smoke and lasers and other special effects, and I Like This was built around a group of individuals toying with old-fashioned handheld lights. For his latest work to come to New York, Connected, Obarzanek has collaborated with California sculptor Reuben Margolin, who has designed a large-scale loomlike object, complete with spinning wheel, that lies at the heart of the evening-length piece. Four dancers dressed in black (Ross McCormack, Harriet Ritchie, Joseph Simons, and Sara Black) and one in white (Marnie Palomares) move about the dominant kinetic installation, with McCormack, soon joined by Palomares, adding white pieces of recycled plastic to the bottom of a cubelike structure composed of hundreds of wires hanging from above while the other dancers whirl their arms and writhe on the floor to Oren Ambarchi and Robin Fox’s electronic score, which at times seems to include homemade DIY percussion sounds. When several of the dancers are attached to the wires coming out of the wheel so that every surge backward or forward, every arm lift and twist, alters the shape of the cube, Palomares moves beneath it, as if she is creating the resulting waves and forms herself. It’s an unusual and exciting sight, but the narrative shifts about halfway through as the dancers change outfits and become museum security guards protecting a work of art, talking about their jobs and saying things like, “Oh, I could do that” and “I’m never bored because I’ll always find something to do.” Unfortunately, this second half of Connected is far less interesting than the first section, as if Obarzanek wasn’t quite sure what else to do with Margolin’s sculpture, deciding to call attention to its artiness instead of creating more dances around and within it. Still, there’s much to admire about Connected, which also requires the audience to remain connected; there is no intermission during the sixty-minute piece, and the audience is told beforehand that if they leave the theater at any time during the performance, they will not be allowed back in.