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Henry Baumgartner

Leimay’s “Becoming-Corpus” at BAM Fisher

Performance Direction, Visual Design and Concept:
Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya
Choreography by Ximena Garnica and Ensemble
Video Programming and Design: Shige Moriya
BAM Fisher
September 12–15, 2013 (Reviewed 9/15)

A colorful moment in Leimay’s “Becoming-Corpus” Photo by Harry Hanson

A flash of light on a darkened stage reveals a group of almost-naked people standing stock still, in silence. Then wiry lines of light slice through the darkness: one, another; soon a bunch of bright ribbons of light illuminate various slices of seven dancers. Are the dancers moving, and even growing and shrinking before our eyes? No, this is only an illusion produced by Shige Moriya’s deft hand with the projector.

Eventually, some peppy music starts up and the dancers begin to move, slowly, viscously, and the stripes of light twist and buckle. Then the dancers are still again--we see only their heads, lit up like a display of Roman statuary in a museum. Episodes of music and other widely varying sounds succeed one another (the sounds are credited to Roland Toledo, Christopher Loar, and Laddio Bolocko), the lights come on, and the dancing, choreographed by Ximena Garnica with the ensemble, becomes more vigorous and various.

A gallery of heads in Leimay’s “Becoming-Corpus” Photo by Harry Hanson

The performers are mostly wearing just briefs, some a bit more; they run, they pose, they make bizarre faces and odd sounds, they bump against each other, breast to breast. They curl up into little balls, each lit in a different color, with hands appearing to emerge from their butts. They stand on their heads and treat us to a forest of legs, waving gently as if in a breeze. Grotesque coupling, crablike crawling.

A mysterious eighth performer walks slowly, very slowly, across the back of the stage, always in darkness, taking the entire 70 minutes or so that the show lasts to get from one side to the other. After a while, the dancers put on their clothes, giving the piece a very different look, though they continue doing much the same sort of things as before. At the end they line up, seminude again, revealed or concealed by large black-and-white projections.

Strips of light hide and reveal the dancers in Leimay’s “Becoming-Corpus.” Photo by Harry Hanson

The sensibility informing the work is reminiscent of butoh, but Garnica and Moriya do not call it that. Nor do they call their company, Leimay, a butoh company. (Cave, a performance space they operate in Williamsburg, does, however, frequently feature butoh performances.) And to be sure, despite the contortions and the weird faces and the squeaky voices, “Becoming-Corpus” has a calm feel to it, rather than the angst-filled intensity one associates with butoh.

“Becoming-Corpus” does seem to run out of steam toward the end, when it begins to seem almost overstuffed with ideas. But for much of the way it held my attention with its ceaseless succession of intriguing and curious goings-on.


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