This collaboration with British light-installation artist Anthony McCall is typical of Jonah Bokaer in its oscillations: between the sculptural and the flat, the elusive and the vexingly obscure, the tender and the clinical; and between the stultifying grids of a choreographer such as postmodernist Lucinda Childs and the unpredictable clusters of serendipitous activity that distinguished Merce Cunningham, with whom the 30-year-old choreographer translucently danced for eight years. In the most moving passages, these poles converge.
Eclipse is perfect for inaugurating BAM’s handsome, $50m, 250-seat Fishman Space for experimental work, around the corner from the opera house. Taking full advantage of the flexible seating, Bokaer has the audience frame the dancers both at ground and balcony level. McCall’s tilted grid of 36 hanging light bulbs also calls attention to dimension and perspective. The piece’s drama is largely spatial: the romance of volume and plane. At the hour’s cosmic start, all the Mars-red bulbs blazing at once seemed to emanate from a distant point.
The dancers brought the astral plane down to earth, beginning with Bokaer, who palmed one globe, then another, and kneeled to enfold a nimbus of light in a muscular embrace – an odd and poignant gesture. The other four (excellent Tal Adler-Arieli, CC Chang, Sara Procopio and Adam Weinert) left the bulbs alone to translate space into time. If objects appear closer together the farther away they are from us, movement – time embodied – seems to slow as it recedes. So the dancers on the perimeter progressed through chunky patterns at zombie speed and orbited tightly around themselves while a gravity-driven loner reversed his path repeatedly as he slipped and slid, lunged, turned and flailed. Eventually someone else assumed his role and he gravitated to the margins.
This fugue most fascinated when it invoked less the laws of physics than the whims of Cunningham, whose model for islands of activity was a New York sidewalk, where traffic patterns and the wilful, erring ways of humans coincide. At one point, Weinert and Adler-Arieli fell into slow sculptural mirroring: sole of foot against sole of foot, upper thigh to upper thigh, as if bodies could stack like boards. That the men’s curving bones and rounded muscles inevitably complicated this endeavour proved piercingly sweet.