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June 16, 2011 6:57 pm

Susan Rethorst, Danspace Project, NY

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Today even choreographers are having retrospectives, but Danspace Project’s celebration of New Yorker Susan Rethorst is probably the first “retro(intro)spective”. The neologism proves apt for the inward slant of the pièce de résistance in a month of round-table discussions, movie nights, an installation, a revival and “wreckings” (wherein a colleague takes over a rehearsal of Rethorst’s work in progress and blithely makes the piece his own).

Like its predecessors in the
208 East Broadway series, the powerful, exhausting Part 3: Over and Out derives its inspiration and set from the living room of the choreographer’s modest apartment on the Lower East Side. In all three pieces, the dancers – all women – blend into and pop out of the furniture.

By Over and Out, the choreographer, aged 59, has been priced out of her neighbourhood. She is moving – to Pennsylvania. Over and Out is as much rite as performance: the dance sucks the life out of the living room so Rethorst can leave it behind.

In the earlier pieces, dancers attached chairs to their backs and stuffed sofa cushions under their sweaters. They lie on top of each other like layers of sediment and cheerfully tossed each other’s limbs about. It was spooky but also goofy. In Over and Out, they strip the futon sofa to its skeleton and lie down in it as in a coffin.

 
Danspace
 Reflection room: Kathy Wasik, left, Elisabete Finger and Kerem Gelebek

The pace is glacial. The performers rearrange the furniture and one another bit by bit. They are often inert, with the occasional jerk of limb or bang of bone against hard surface. Everything – bones, furniture, the pillars of the dance – seems fragile. Rethorst has always been a master at charging the atmosphere – she can work wonders with a pause or the space between bodies – but the air has never felt quite so heavy.

Eventually, though, the 50-minute dance lightens into elegy. In an entrancing final duet, Naomi Fall traces an outline around Rethorst’s standing form.

It says, “Here you are”. The choreographer’s face is fierce with sadness. Fall slides her chin along the older woman’s outstretched arm until it reaches her open palm, which closes around her skull. The sudden will to have and hold is a first flicker of life after melancholy.

 

 


danspaceproject.org

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