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Henry Baumgartner

A Mean Piece from Jeremy Nelson


Francis A. Stansky, Gretchen Pallo, and Meredith McCanse in Nelson's "Accent Elimination." Photo by Julieta Cervantes

By Henry Baumgartner

Jeremy Nelson's program at DTW began with a work from 2004, "Accent Elimination." Five dancers slide and spin in front of a backdrop that shows a large red feather and a line of meaningless characters such as computers like to spew out when something's not going right. I imagine that Nelson is saying something about the impossibility of communication here—most of the time the dancers are performing intricate but unrelated moves, as if each were in his or her separate world; at one point, a woman stretches her leg out and nearly kicks someone in the face. While depicting such an atmosphere of isolation and anomie is certainly a worthy endeavor, this procedure has the effect of making the piece look a little unfocused.

"Mean Piece," Nelson's new work, is easier to like. It's pretty mean, though. The six dancers run up to one another and stomp, kick, grab, and otherwise seek to intimidate each other. One holds on as another tries to get free. Stage lights are directed right at the audience—now that's mean. And everybody looks really pissed off. When three dancers link arms, it doesn't look like they're buddies, it looks like a perp walk. All this, to be sure, is interspersed with less fraught moments.

Nelson's complex and detailed choreography was ably executed by Lawrence Casella, Meredith McCanse, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Gretchen Pallo, Rebecca Serrell, and Francis A. Stansky. Sets and costumes for both pieces were by Luis Lara Malvacías. The scores were by David Watson and Pavel Zuštiak, and the lighting was by David Tirosh.

Jeremy Nelson
Mean Piece
Dance Theater Workshop
September 13-16, 2006


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