This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001




Helen Herbertson immerses herself and the audience into a dreamlike state in MORPHIA SERIES

Baryshnikov Arts Center, Howard Gilman Performance Space
450 West 37th St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
January 12-16, $20

Eighteen minutes. Twelve audience members in custom-created bleacher seating. An artisanal amuse bouche with a shot of sweet Muscat. Pitch blackness. Slowly, dozens and dozens of yards away, at the other side of the room, a cube becomes illuminated, and a figure can be seen silhouetted against swirling smoke. She moves ever so slightly, primarily shifting her hands and arms, as the sounds of nature seep in. After a few minutes, a sudden shock and back to utter darkness, not even an Exit sign glowing. The lights gently fade in and the cube now feels as if it’s underwater, where the woman is moving her full body elegantly and fluidly to the sounds of the sea. In the third section — well, for the third section, you’ll need to buckle your seat belt, because you’re in for a very different kind of ride. One of Australia’s most important and influential choreographers over the past four decades, Melbourne-based Helen Herbertson pushes creative boundaries once again with Morphia Series, a stark, startling work, both tender and tense, dream and nightmare, made with lighting designer and longtime collaborator Ben Cobham. The 2002 piece, inspired by Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, is making its New York premiere at the Baryshnikov Arts Center as part of PS122’s COIL festival. “My work has focused on the dynamic flow between people and place — the interaction of body and landscape or situation — interior life with light, form, place — person and place,” Herbertson, who essentially bares her soul in performing Morphia Series, told Brolga: An Australian Journal about Dance in October 2010. “The approach fuses an expressive, physical language with a detailed exploration of the performance site, emphasizing the integration of lighting and design while working collaboratively, from inception with performers and creative teams.” You can add the audience to that collaborative summation, twelve people who are very much part of this unusual experience.

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