Pam Tanowitz Dance (PTD) continues its digital site-specific season with Finally Unfinished: Part I, streaming from the Joyce through December 26. During the pandemic, with theaters emptied by health restrictions, the Bronx-born Tanowitz, who was a 2013 Joyce Residency Artist, has created several outdoor works that take dance fans and performers outside. David, a solo for American Ballet Theater principal dancer David Hallberg as part of “ABT Today: The Future Starts Now,” is set at the Glass House in New Canaan, while Solo for Russell: Sites 1-5, a solo for New York City Ballet principal dancer Russell Janzen for NYCB’s New Works Festival, guided viewers around the Lincoln Center campus, from the Illumination Lawn to the Damrosch Park Bandshell. (In June 2019, Tanowitz’s Time is forever dividing itself toward innumerable futures took place in several locations in Nelson A. Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City for the 2019 River to River Festival.)
Now Tanowitz has returned to the Joyce Theater, where she has presented such works as Passagen and Heaven on One’s Head in February 2014, Sequenzas in Quadrilles and the story progresses as if in a dream of glittering surfaces in September 2016, and New Work for Goldberg Variations in December 2019, with a multipart show created specifically for online viewing through JoyceStream. Made following Covid-19 protocols during a residency on Governors Island, the work, following an iteration livestreamed from the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia on October 15, is a “flexible dance piece” that is set in and around the Joyce, from the proscenium stage to the wings, from the aisles to the balcony.
“We finally finished Finally Unfinished, but it’s never really finished,” Tanowitz announces before the curtain literally rises on Jason Collins, Christine Flores, Zachary Gonder, and Victor Lozano, who perform Gustave Le Gray, No. 2 on an empty stage. The four barefoot dancers, wearing tan shorts and T-shirts designed by Reid Barthelme and Harriet Jung, move gingerly in unison to a score by Caroline Shaw played by pianist Amy Yang; the camera shoots them from multiple angles, with closeups of their bare legs and long shots from the back of the theater.
After ten minutes, they are joined by Brittany Engel-Adams, Lindsey Jones, and Melissa Toogood for the explosion that is Finally Unfinished: Part 1. Amid piped-in crowd noises (“Field Recordings” by Dan Siegler) and recordings of cues from PTD’s 2014 appearance at the Joyce (“Cueing Sound Score,” with the disembodied voices of Laurie Benoit and Jeff Segal), Toogood takes over the stage, dressed in a full-length space-age onesie with a hood, followed by a masked cameraman in the same outfit. Soon everyone has changed costumes (including some garb that incorporates the design and color of the seats in the audience, the curtain, and the carpeting) as they dance to “Furtive Movements,” an electronic score by Ted Hearne, performed by cellist Ashley Bathgate and percussionist Ron Wiltrout. It all builds to an exhilarating crescendo until a peaceful and quiet finale with, of course, no applause.
But it’s not quite over; Finally Unfinished: Part II continues online with what PTD calls “a Digital Curio Case.” Designed by Jeremy Jacob and beginning with old footage of a clapping crowd, Part II reveals some of Tanowitz’s inspirations and creative process, including text (“Nowhere is a dead end”), cutouts of the dancers, a collection of clips from films in which characters perform playful dances using their fingers on a table (The Gold Rush, A Band Apart, Benny & Joon), a behind-the-scenes look at costumes by Barthelme and Jung and scenery by Suzanne Bocanegra, recommended reading, and more.
From the dances to the multimedia scrapbook, it’s a judicious and entertaining tribute to the Joyce using the internet as medium during a health crisis that has left us all in front of our screens, unable to experience dance and other live entertainment in person. As Tanowitz says, “It’s a different format now. / What format should it be? / We finished it for you. / It’s never finished for me.”