Sunday, June 1, 2008
“Off at York St., turn right, last building in Jay St., next to the water," were the directions I had from Peter to get to the performance of “Frame Dances” a piece, or rather three short pieces by Susan Marshal and Company at Music-Theatre Group’s new space in DUMBO (from yet another realter term for ‘down under Manhattan bridge’), in a precarious, mid-refurbished building. The show also featured Peter’s latest musical score, one done in the few short months since he moved to Manhattan from San Francisco. I was happy to be in town to witness the last performance of the run on Sunday and congratulate Peter on getting his work to New York.
With names like “Cloudless” “Sandstone” “body of water” “green, green, grass” and “forward” I was struck again by how much art these days is about what is, or rather, what was, outside. Nature, clean air, relaxed days at the beach, where are they now?
“Save each other, save yourself,” I wrote in my notebook midway through “Sandstone”, as two dancers writhed in a sand-filled box in the middle of the room, thinking of the news I’d seen lately, the reported gas prices, political rants, Iraq war news and crane collapses echoing in my brain. Digging, grasping, pushing, the dancers occasionally unearthed rocks and placed the stone outside the box. At times, the dancers pushed each other aside as strongly as they held onto one another. Once, dancers returned a rock to the box, placing it under her partner’s head. To the side, I could see Peter playing citern and other instruments to a partially recorded track. A video projection of the dancers taken from the ceiling played on the other wall in real time.
“Green, Green, Grass,” performed in another third of the space on a patch of just that, was pure joy. The dancers squirmed and skipped and pulled one another over the grass. Meanwhile, Peter played a gratefully upbeat rhythm on the citern (which sounds like a cross between a sitar and a guitar, and looks like a 12-string crossed with a mandolin and, I believe, is actually Brazilian). At one point, they pulled him, on his back and playing, the same video camera recording it and projecting it live as well. A child from the audience joined in. After another transition, we moved the last third of the room. There, a dancer rigged up in a harness like a rock-climber was spun and lifted toward the ceiling. Ascension. Relief. Hope for the world had returned.