Image: Detail of Yvonne Rainer's Spiraling Down Photo: Paula Court

S E N S E D A N C E at Joyce SoHo

June 26, 2011

informal showing of Henning Rübsam's choreography

Henning Rübsam’s SENSEDANCE triggers the basic five but invokes a sense of past and future too. June 24, he spoke about his mixology of ballet and modern dance .

Innocence (2007) began the informal program in bright house lights. It was the first of a four-performance run at the black box Joyce SoHo theater. Erin Ginn danced the satisfying solo to piano music by Ron Mazurek. Ginn takes sculpted poses. The bare back of her black leotard creates shapes. Rübsam called this elegant dance a movement study and an homage to Alwin Nikolais. Nikolais emphasized acrobatic poses and visual elements like shape and color.

Ballet trained in Hamburg, Rübsam then studied the moderns and took what interested him—he has named Graham, Laban, Limón, and Nikolais. One can find other modern influences, for example Ted Shawn and Doris Humphrey in his ballet vision.

Ginn takes extended, sustained poses and walks on her hands away from an upside- down V. To end, she looks at us with convincing innocence. It recalls Humphrey’s maxim about the importance of a dance’s end.

van der Sterre and KemezisAmaranthine Road (2008) is a neoclassical duet for Temple Kemezis and Max van der Sterre. They look like Grecian athletes, she with an off the shoulder tunic and he with only tight briefs and a prominent text tattoo across his chest. The former New York City Ballet dancer’s strong dancing justifies his striking look. In one phrase, Kemezis extends angular Egyptian arms and elsewhere she is in second, on pointe, in full plié. She has moments, for example, the searching look she gives him is a sudden clue. It’s a courtship dance. It could be a dance about the full journey of a relationship. Her intelligence is saving, but at the same time, she appears uncomfortable with the difficult steps and the partnering.

Angelic looking Paul Monaghan danced the solo Göttingen to the cabaret song by the French artist Barbara. He is light on his feet and his sideways leaps match his physical appearance, evoking the blonde children Barbara sings of. After this playful, romantic interpretation, in which Monaghan is fully in the moment, we want to see more of this promising dancer.

Rübsam premiered Impending Re-Visit reworked as a duet. Ginn and Uthman Ebrahim gallop toward each other into athletic carries and fish dives. He takes the girls part as she supports his balance in a turn. They equalize, holding hands while cantilevered, and literally see eye-to-eye in a final tableau on the floor to music by Rafael Aponte-Ledée.

HALF-LIFE and Göttingen picture Rübsam as the Anselm Kiefer of dance.

The new HALF-LIFE is a fast-paced quartet with the two women on pointe. Ginn is the more flexible, while Kemesis’s verticality resists Rübsam’s experiments with modern horizontality in pointe work. The bright lights and intimate stage don't forgive any flubbing or misconnections. But when in a flash she performs an amazing cabriole, kicking her legs behind while levitated in the air, we are in awe and van der Sterre looks just as astounded. I can only recall male danseurs noble doing this.

The cast begins in lanes wearing swim tanks and shorts. Their arms are straight and scissor in front of them, as if propelling them forward in a race. They take turns in same-sex duets, circulating and exchanging forward and upstage positions. The male duets are a highlight of the evening.

There are wonderful elements in this dance, with all its hopeful hubris. I like that they start HALF-LIFE facing the wall and then turn. I like the musicality. It recapitulates its own impossibilities when in the end the cast lies on their sides with Monaghan's arm hanging straight up, as if he is holding a white flag. On first viewing it suggests apocalypse, to apt music by the Slovenian band Laibach.

HALF-LIFE and Göttingen poignantly tackle the big questions and put Rübsam forth as the Anselm Kiefer of dance.

Temple Kemezis and Max van der Sterre in Amaranthine Road. Photo: Alex Feld