The ensemble piece And Lose the Name of Action is as mercurial as the man to whom it owes its title (that would be Hamlet). Choreographer Miguel Gutierrez’s highly anticipated BAM debut, which travels to Seattle and Chicago in the coming months, is alternately melancholy and raging, forthright and swathed in irony, cerebral and sensual, deliberate and spontaneous, operatic and mumbly – in short, exhaustive and finally exhausting.
Now a decade into his dance-making, Gutierrez juxtaposes such disparate modes as movement “scores” for on-the-spot improvisation with set choreography, and solo displays of violent feeling with sit-com spats whose improbable subject is the nature of mind and matter. Only performers as seasoned and individual as Michelle Boulé, Hilary Clark, Luke George, K.J. Holmes, Ishmael Houston-Jones and Gutierrez could have pulled off such protean demands, but Lose the Name did not let us sit back and admire their achievement. The dance immersed us. Signalling its MO early with a surprisingly touching séance in which we held hands as the performers sat beside us and sang gloriously, it repeatedly dragged us under, then yanked us up.
The dancers were by turns intimate and distant, intent and diffuse, bombastic and ruminative. Neal Medlyn’s sound score shifted between tinkly atmospherics, psychedelic thrashings, keyboard plunks and intervals of silence. Lenore Doxsee’s lighting conjured the red glow of a demi-monde, the radiant silver of winter mornings, and the innocuous lights-up of the indoors everyday. As we adjusted to each new state, the dance burned especially bright, yielding insights.
The most ghostly moments occurred on celluloid: the three screens that enclosed the space lit up intermittently. A man agitated by ideas (the excellent Paul Duncan) appeared out of a sea of whiteness so dimensionless it must be the colour people see at near-death and explained he was in “dogged pursuit” of – he could not say what. “The pale cast of thought”, as prolix Hamlet puts it, seemed to have “sicklied o’er” its object.
Though tightly constructed, And Lose the Name of Action is similarly afflicted. Out of an excess of aims it ends up aimless. This effect of diminishing returns may be deliberate – hence the dance’s title – but it comes at too great a cost. After 90 intense minutes, the revelations that arrived early were irretrievable.