There’s a lot of pleasure to be had in Otro Teatro: The Pleasure Project, the culmination of luciana achugar’s three-month exploration of public intervention, individual and collective ritualized movement, and the relationship between performer and spectator. As its title suggests, it is “other theater,” an unusual, experimental approach to dance and performance, part of the American Realness festival at Abrons Arts Center. But first things first: It’s best to know as little as possible about this eighty-minute evening-length work. If you like nontraditional, challenging, immersive dance theater, then just buy your tickets and go. They don’t even hand out the programs until you’re on your way out; instead, you’re given a small piece of paper with a quote about the body, including: “a body in pleasure with eyes that see without naming, they see without knowing….” But if you truly need to know more and don’t want to experience the numerous surprises that achugar (The Sublime Is Us, A Supernatural Return to Love) has in store for you — and there are surprises galore every step of the way in this unconventional, invigorating theatrical premiere — then read on.
Spoilers Galore: Otro Teatro takes place in the Abrons Arts Center Playhouse, but instead of sitting in the cushiony red seats in the audience, you’re led through a hallway onto the stage itself, where you can sit or stand anywhere on the four sides of what has now become a small black box space. The lights are on and the curtain is closed as several bottles of Old Taylor are passed around, with everyone invited to take repeated swigs of the “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey of Topmost Class.” Slowly, a few people break away from the mingling and start moving determinedly. One pounds her feet on the floor. Another kicks an aluminum gate. A third slithers like a snake. A fourth bangs against a post. At times it evokes a group of zombies waking up, getting their brain-hungry day started. As the performers, one of whom might be right next to you, continue to reveal themselves, it becomes confusing; someone stretching might just be someone stretching and not part of the show. Then again, you start wondering if anyone can participate, as it appears to be so random, and the performers come in all different shapes and sizes. Eventually, the lights go out, and in the darkness the sound and movement continue until the curtains are being pushed back and forth, opening up onto a whole new world. A few of the performers squiggle toward the rim of the stage and tumble over, reversing the usual stage-star dynamic as the audience, onstage, watches a handful of dancers making their way over chairs and up and down the aisles, pounding doors and creeping through the rows. The crowd follows the dancers toward the front of the stage, a few audience members even walking down the steps and finding a seat as action keeps going on all around them. Soon clothes start coming off as well. It’s part zombie apocalypse (evoking Bruce High Quality Foundation’s short film Isle of the Dead, about zombies heading toward a theater on Governors Island), part 1960s happening, with Old Taylor still making the rounds. The show never really ends; it just peters out, as ushers start asking the audience to grab their things and head for the exits, even as naked dancers are not quite done yet, scratching the walls and hiding beneath some seats. So, what was it all about? You won’t find the answer in the program, which is three pages of bios of the cast and crew and acknowledgments; they even left the fourth page blank, leaving it up to you to figure out what you’ve just experienced. Which, of course, is always the way it should be.
Who: Jack Ferver
What: Night Light Bright Light, part of American Realness performance festival, which continues through January 23
Where: Abrons Arts Center Playhouse, 466 Grand St. at Pitt St., 212-598-0400
When: Wednesday, January 14, 6:30, Friday, January 16, 10:00, and Sunday, January 18, 7:00, $20
Why: Multidisciplinary performance artist Jack Ferver pays tribute to late dancer, actor, and choreographer Fred Herko, a kindred spirit who, at the age of twenty-eight in 1964, took a bath and danced naked to Mozart music right out a window; Ferver, who has performed such previous deeply personal works as Two Alike, Rumble Ghost, All of a Sudden, and Mon, Ma, Mes, notes on his website that like Herko, “I am a dancer, an actor, a choreographer, and I love taking baths and I have danced naked though have yet to jeté out a window. I have often talked about suicide with my childhood friend Reid Bartelme. Reid will join me in the work. Reid is a beautiful dancer. Reid will make sure I don’t jump.”
Now in its 232nd season, the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg has been home to Balanchine and Baryshnikov, Nijinsky and Nureyev. This month the Mariinsky Opera, Ballet, Orchestra, and Chorus will settle in for an exciting residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with four presentations January 14-25 that speak to its past, present, and future. On January 14, artistic director Valery Gergiev will conduct Rodion Shchedrin’s The Enchanted Wanderer, based on tale by Nikolai Leskov. The production is directed by Alexei Stepanyuk, with sets by Alexander Orlov, costumes by Irina Cherednikova, and choreography by Dmitry Korneyev. The Enchanted Wanderer is followed January 15-23 by Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, a longtime staple that was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1895 and then revised in 1950 by Konstantin Sergeyev. Gergiev and Gavriel Heine conduct; the libretto is by Vladimir Begichev and Vasily Geltzer, with sets by Igor Ivanov and costumes by Galina Solovyova. Among the performers are Mariinsky principal dancers Viktoria Tereshkina, Ulyana Lopatkina, Yevgeny Ivanchenko, Yekaterina Kondaurova, and Vladimir Shklyarov, depending on which night you go. The Mariinsky’s 2002 production of Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella glides into BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House January 17-20, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and conducted by Gergiev; the libretto is by Nikolai Volkov inspired by Charles Perrault’s fairy tale, with sets by Ilya Utkin and Yevgeny Monakhov and costumes by Elena Markovskaya. Principal dancers include Kondaurova, Shklyarov, and Diana Vishneva. The Russian invasion concludes January 24-25 with Chopin: Dances for Piano, comprising Michel Fokine’s 1908 Chopiniana, Jerome Robbins’s 1970 In the Night, and Benjamin Millepied’s 2011 Without, all set to the music of Frédéric Chopin, with Gergiev serving as musical director and Alexandra Zhilina, Liudmila Sveshnikova, and Philipp Kopachevsky taking turns at the piano. Principal dancers include Shklyarov, Kondaurova, Ivanchenko, and Lopatkina.
Who: luciana achugar
What: Otro Teatro: The Pleasure Project, part of American Realness performance festival, which continues through January 23
Where: Abrons Arts Center Playhouse, 466 Grand St. at Pitt St., 212-598-0400
When: Tuesday, January 13, 6:00, Thursday, January 15, 6:30, and Saturday, January 17, 4:30, $20
Why: Brooklyn-based choreographer and dancer luciana achugar (Feeling Is Believing, Puro Deseo, The Sublime Is Us) concludes three-month exploration of public intervention, individual and collective ritualized movement, and the interaction between performer and spectator, taking place in a metaphorical “theater in ruins”
With Rude World, Molly Lieber and Eleanor Smith conclude their intimate trilogy that started with 2012’s Beautiful Bone and continued with 2013’s Tulip, a trio of works danced and choreographed by the two women, who have been collaborating since 2006. Part of PS122’s COIL festival, Rude World takes place in the black box space at Long Island City’s Chocolate Factory, with two rows of folding chairs at the north and south ends and black curtains forming the east and west sides. The forty-five-minute improvisation-based performance begins as Lieber and Smith, both naked, enter the small, dark room. Lieber sits on a reserved chair as Smith stands right in front of her. Over the course of several minutes, Lieber slowly caresses Smith’s body, from shoulder blades to calves, while her face moves into Smith’s backside. The only sound heard is that of a far-off ventilation system, barely audible, as well as the soft gulps of the audience members. The opening sets the tone for the rest of the show, as each dancer gets a solo in which they embrace the space with runs and jumps; in between, the central section features their bodies entwining, virtually becoming one as they twist, turn, and roll, pushing and pulling each other, using various body parts in a creative vocabulary of movement bordering on the sexual. They also stand face-first against the black curtain, slowly moving up and down as if trying to merge with the barrier. Through it all, Madeline Best’s lighting shifts ever so subtly, melding with the silence, which is interrupted only by Lieber’s and Smith’s heavy breathing — and yet more audience gulps.
Developed during a residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Rude World is a mesmerizing work that gently tantalizes and taunts the audience. Lieber, who has danced for luciana achugar, Neil Greenberg, Maria Hassabi, Juliette Mapp, and Melinda Ring, and Smith, who has performed with Ivy Baldwin, Katie Workum, Juliana F. May, Vanessa Anspaugh, and Molly Poerstel, boldly reveal themselves, daring the crowd to look at them and their bodies. The piece gets confusing when each dancer puts on at least one article of clothing, perhaps emphasizing the nudity too much. But the brief wardrobe changes also tell the audience that the dancers know that they’re being examined in a way costumed dancers aren’t, with usually hidden body parts on view and moving along with hands, legs, heads, etc. Of course, nudity in contemporary dance is nothing new, but it can still be bold and thrilling when used in intelligent, unique ways.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, January 3, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum welcomes in 2015 by handing over the reins of its free monthly First Saturdays program to several of the artists featured in “Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond,” which concludes on January 4. The night before, curators Eugenie Tsai and Rujeko Hockley will discuss the exhibition at 5:30, “Crossing Brooklyn” artist Linda Goode Bryant will talk about urban farming at 6:15, jazz percussionist Ches Smith will activate David Horvitz’s forty-seven suspended bells as part of a site-specific musical composition at 6:30, and BFAMFAPhD (Blair Murphy, Susan Jahoda, and Vicky Virgin) will delve into the nature of creativity and debt at 7:15. “‘Crossing Brooklyn’ Artists’ Choice” also features live performances by Snarky Puppy, DJ Selly and DJ Asen from Fon, ventriloquist Nigel “Docta Gel” Dunkley (telling the story of Cindy Hot Chocolate from Geltown), immersive dance company Ani Taj and the Dance Cartel, Fela! veterans Chop and Quench led by Sahr Ngaujah, and spoken word poets Corina Copp, Patricia Spears Jones, Rickey Laurentiis, and Charles North as well as Greg Barris’s “Heart of Darkness” comedy showcase with Janeane Garofalo and Ilana Glazer, a print-making art workshop, a creative writing workshop led by Jaime Shearn Coan, and D’hana Perry’s multimedia improvisational “LOOSE.” In addition, you can check out such exhibitions as “Revolution! Works from the Black Arts Movement,” “Judith Scott — Bound and Unbound,” and “Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time.”
Hofesh Schechter’s 2006 Uprising charged out of the gate at City Center on December 28, kicking off Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s all-new program with a vengeance. Jeroboam Bozeman, Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Yannick Lebrun, Jamar Roberts, Jermaine Terry, and Marcus Jarrell Willis emerge from the smoky shadows and march to the front of the stage, then spend the next twenty-six minutes immersed in acts of powerful aggression, animal-like scoots low to the floor, and playful in-fighting, all set to the Jerusalem-born, London-based choreographer’s percussive, electronic score (with Vex’d), with superb lighting by Lee Curran that keeps things dark and mysterious. Six of the men wear relatively drab-colored clothing except for Willis, whose red shirt stands out as the men foment an unstated revolution. Restaged by Bruno Guillore, Uprising, which will next be performed on December 31 at 2:00, is an exhilarating piece that shows off the vast talent of the Ailey men, led by an impressive Roberts.
Uprising was followed by Suspended Women, which gives a chance for the Ailey women to strut their stuff. Choreographed by New York City native Jacqulyn Buglisi, the eighteen-minute work features fifteen women wearing long gowns, petticoats, and hoop skirts (the lovely costumes are by A. Christina Giannini), led by the ever-elegant Linda Celeste Sims in pink and Hope Boykin in purple, spinning, twirling, subsiding to the floor and rising again, sometimes delicately, sometimes robustly, to music by Maurice Ravel, with interpolations by Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR). On several occasions, four men enter the picture, bare-chested in suit jackets and dark pants, but this is all about the ladies. The haunting 2000 piece was inspired by seventeenth-century nun and author Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz “and is dedicated to all women since the beginning of time ‘suspended,’” Buglisi explains in a program note. Indeed, this energizing work, which will next be performed on January 4 at 3:00, lets these glorious women shine.
The all-new program concluded with former Ailey star dancer and current rehearsal director and guest artist Matthew Rushing’s third piece for the company, ODETTA, an overly earnest tribute to folksinger and civil rights activist Odetta Holmes. Rushing, who previously choreographed 2005’s Acceptance in Surrender with Boykin and Abdur-Rahim Jackson and 2009’s overly earnest Harlem Renaissance homage Uptown, once again creates movement that works too literally with the soundtrack, which includes Odetta’s iconic performances of “This Little Light of Mine,” “John Henry,” “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” and “A Hole in the Bucket,” a duet with Harry Belafonte. Akua Noni Parker is vibrant embodying Odetta, who passed away in 2008 at the age of seventy-seven, but Rushing adds unnecessary video projections by Stephen Alcorn and a confusing quartet of interlocking bench artworks by Travis George to his straightforward narrative, which reaches its nadir when he lowers an American flag and adds army helmets to the male dancers as Odetta sings Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” Rushing, who so excelled at interpreting other choreographers’ work, needs to develop a more inventive and creative movement vocabulary for his dancers, relying less on mere heartfelt passion and more on insight and ingenuity. That said, ODETTA, which will next be performed December 31 at 2:00 (what would have been Odetta’s eighty-fourth birthday), received the most rapturous applause of the evening.