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Henry Baumgartner

Dancing in the Dark with DD Dorvillier


DD Dorvillier
Nothing Is Importanttt: a suite of three conditions
The Kitchen
February 2-3, 7-10, 2007 (reviewed 2/7)

By Henry Baumgartner

Dancers pushing the envelope in DD Dorvillier’s “Nothing is Importanttt.'' Photo by David Bergé.

I'd been forewarned that DD Dorvillier's new piece, ''Nothing Is Importanttt,'' would be a bit strange, but of course I dismissed this out of hand—a downtown dance piece that's a bit strange? Hell, they all do their best to be as weird as can be. To break out of the pack and do something memorably strange (and that you can't get arrested for) is not easy, but Dorvillier did in fact deliver the goods in her show's final section.
Dancers pushing the envelope in DD Dorvillier’s “Nothing is Importanttt.'' Photo by David Bergé.

The Kitchen's space was, as usual, reconfigured to seat a limited number of people, with a small, white stage space immediately in front of a few risers. (Hardly anybody leaves the Kitchen's seating plan unmolested these days. I believe Sarah Michelson is to blame for this.) For the first of the show's three parts, ''9 bodies,'' nine bodies clamber on to the stage, clad in more or less regular grungy New York attire, and lie down or stand about hanging their heads rather forlornly, looking away from us.

One by one, they each proceed to bare an arm, leg, foot, or back, now and then putting a sock or shirt back on and baring something else, one body part at a time--nothing really racy, though, I'm afraid. In the background we hear occasional mysterious wisps of music from some string instrument, credited to the estimable Zeena Parkins. (Lights are by Thomas Dunn, and the choreography was created by Dorvillier in collaboration with the performers.) After a while the dancers begin to move together, huddling against the wall, making a muscle, leaning over, lining up as if for the police. One dancer comes out and demonstrates what looks to me like an awfully complex series of movements; the rest try to copy this, looking as if they'd never seen these moves before, and soon dissolve into chaos. Some of them go through the motions of taking off their clothes, but they don't actually do it. I suppose you could call this strip-miming.

Part II is a movie, ''Hamma Schwein G'habt,'' glossed as ''We Got Lucky,'' directed by Dorvillier and featuring her and Jon Jernquist. Santa Claus (Dorvillier), dripping wet, takes an axe to a folding chair, then starts hurling chairs off what look like the Kitchen's risers and smashing them. So that's why we're all sitting on cushions. Blaring brass fanfares accompany this exploit; later scenes in a wintry wood are backed by percussion and odd pee-yow sounds as Jernquist chops up logs.

Eventually we were led slowly into a pitch-dark room--located about where the Kitchen's stage is usually found--and guided to our seats for ''the darkpart.'' This guidance was necessary--I couldn't see a thing, and I eat plenty of carrots. I could hear a lot of thumpings and slidings right in front of my nose, but as to who or what was making these noises I had not a clue. The music that went along with this was a slow, mystical succession of tones. When a little light seeped in through the flies above--making bright squarish outlines, as though the ceiling were coming apart--a few ghostly white forms could be barely glimpsed as they glided by. From time to time, looking at one murkily lit show or another, I've idly wondered how little lighting you could actually get away with in a dance piece. Now I know.

Certainly the show was mystifying and often frustrating--frustrating on purpose, too. And yet, it remained fascinating and curiously pleasing, even beautiful at times. And there was the satisfaction of knowing that somebody has enough imagination to still be able to make a work that strikes me, at least, as, well, strange.


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