Working Women, An Introduction to Contemporary Dance

My partner and I were recently invited by a friend to view an Encore Presentation of Working Womena selection of contemporary dance troupe performances at the Joyce Theater. A program of work by female choreographers including Kate Weare, Camille A. Brown, Carolyn Dorfman, and Monica Bill Barnes produced by Gotham Arts Exchange.

It was my first experience with contemporary dance, the dance equivalent of a tasting menu, with a number of companies creating short performances. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

The show opened and closed with Monica Bill Barnes work, a hilarious performance, which began with a video of two performers dragging a vaudeville-like set across the city and brought onto the stage of the Joyce. Athletic, campy, and timed impeccably it featured 2 dancers in gym shoes, and figure skater-like costumes celebrating themselves moving like dancers/clowns performing moves seated on cheap folding chairs.

As a newbie watching dance, I couldn’t say that I easily distinguished the nuanced personalities of each company. It felt at times like a many act play, the whole show as one continuous performance by many actors.

I would say that my biggest complaint was that many of the costumes were dark or pastels, on a dark stage. The lighting for each performance was well timed and professionally executed. But often times, the lack of contrast between the wardrobe and the set made me wish that more color was used to highlight the beauty of the movement and the bodies of the dancers. In some cases, the costumes were black, with black socks or black pants, and all you could easily make out were bits of nude limbs.

The other drawback was that there seemed to be, from my unaccustomed eyes, a lack of narrative to some of the work. Perahps each performance and company would be more distinct if I were to see it again.

The piece put on by Bodytraffic was much different than the others, mainly due to the style of movement, reminding me of the movie Bladerunner. The dancers’ movements were robotic.

I enjoyed the performances which had multiple dancers. The silhouettes created by the bodies interacting made for an engaging visual presentation.

Jane Comfort used LED lights as props, which integrated references of technology. One dancer was deep in the back of the stage, adding a layer of busyness, that was intriguing.

Kate Weare, had 3 dancers, at times performing individually, sometimes as a pair of men, and other times together. Their costumes were lighter in color, and these combinations created an interesting narrative.

Overall, it was a perfect introduction to this form of the arts. It gave me the opportunity, in one evening to see a range of work and allowed me to get a little deeper into dance.

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