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Oscillating between extremes, Pendulum offered an evening of short performance by four female choreographers: Zornitsa Stoyanova, Courtney Colón, Amy Lynne Barr, and Darcy Lyons. While each shares an interest in the body’s relationship to the self, to others, and to the gaze, their styles are distinct and their varying approaches complement one another in illuminating ways.
“Untitled and Solo,” choreographed and performed by Stoyanova, was the evening’s first and most successful piece. Stoyanova remained largely out of sight, concealed from the start by an enormous, pillow-shaped Mylar balloon recalling Andy Warhol’s 1966 “Silver Clouds.” She is not the first choreographer to use this material; Merce Cunningham famously borrowed Warhol’s sculpture for his 1968 RainForest, fascinated by the way the balloons’ mirrored surface reflected light and the dancers’ bodies in motion.
Stoyanova got more intimate with her balloon than did Cunningham’s dancers. As the piece began, the only light came from a pair of clamp lights, one red and one blue. The balloon drifted across and downstage, propelled by an unseen fan. It was a curious, alien presence, not exactly menacing but not exactly friendly either. Gradually I became aware that Stoyanova’s body was enfolded within the balloon.
We glimpsed a woman’s legs now and then, only to see them repeatedly subsumed into the mass. A narrative emerged, that of a woman struggling to be born. Slowly, Stoyanova gained the advantage. The struggle intensified, as did the volume of her only accompaniment, the crinkling and crackling Mylar crushed underfoot or by grasping fingers.
In the piece’s final moment, Stoyanova triumphed. She subdued her metallic prison, standing free, and fully exposed. An enchanting smile of introduction — half shyness, half pride — lit up her face as she met our gaze for the first time.
Back and forth
Courtney Colón’s “Femme” is also concerned with the shapes the female body assumes and sheds. She began her solo facing upstage, wearing a girlish dress and stilettos. Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” played as Colón bopped her hips to the beat. This buoyant ‘80s anthem of a modest kind of female empowerment was soon discarded, along with Colón’s painful-looking heels.
Embracing a heavier, earthier movement vocabulary, Colón got down on the floor, collapsing repeatedly and vomiting artificial rose petals. She let the petals fall from between her legs as she shuffled laboriously offstage. This final gesture suggested menstruation and completed our brief primer on the unpleasant aspects of femininity that cannot be prettily packaged by pop songs.
Amy Lynne Barr’s “Grate” presented an autobiographical study of thwarted narcissism. Barr read us the dictionary definition of the word great. She then showed us photos of herself as an adorable towheaded child and as a drunken college student. She boasted about her performance on a third-grade reading test and lamented her failure to secure a teaching job after graduate school. She closed by belting out “Maybe This Time” from the film adaptation of Cabaret and presenting photos of her baby, whose existence we were meant to take as proof Barr came out a “winner” after all. This critic was not entirely convinced.
Darcy Lyons choreographed “Heaviness/Lightness” with and for Sean Thomas Boyt and Andy Thierauf (a.k.a. stb x at), and her piece provided a refreshing coda to the evening — two bodies, not one, and male bodies at that.
The piece incorporated a pair of Newton’s cradles, those click-clacking desktop amusements which illustrate the principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Its strongest moments showed Boyt and Thierauf enacting this principle with their bodies. Their interplay was sweet, even childlike, but they also had the power to dominate and control one another, with one appearing to animate the other’s movement, puppeteer-style, by banging on drums or playing less conventional instruments.
In “Heaviness/Lightness” I suspected I was seeing an interpersonal rendering of the intrapersonal conflicts feeding the three preceding pieces. Lyons, who also produced the event, succeeded in assembling an evening of provocative juxtapositions.
What, When, Where
Pendulum. "Untitled and Solo," by Zornitsa Stoyanova; "Femme," by Courtney Colón; "Grate," by Amy Lynne Barr; Heaviness/Lightness," by Darcy Lyons. Lyons and Tigers. April 28-29, 2018, at the Iron Factory, 118 Fontain Street, Philadelphia. Lyonsandtigers.com.
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