BODYTRAFFIC Review: An Evening of Creative Commitment
BODYTRAFFIC Review March 1, 2022 | The Joyce Theater – New York, NY, USA
Founded in 2007, BODYTRAFFIC “uses the creative spirit of its Los Angeles home as a backdrop for delivering performances”. On their opening night at The Joyce Theater, the company brought superb technique and passionate commitment to the stage.
The evening opened with the world premiere of The One to Stay With by Baye & Asa (a team made up of the choreographers Sam Pratt and Amadi Washington). The curtain lifted on a striking image; a large basin set on downstage left and a thin beam of light pouring over it. Three dancers circled around it as slow drops of water fell from the ceiling into the bowl, an echoed drip reverberated around the theater.
Set to a selection of Russian and Romanian music ranging from Tchaikovsky to Bartók and accompanied by almost militaristic movement, it was as if a Russian character dance was transcribed through a contemporary lens.
The sharp, syncopated music and bewildering grins on the dancers put the piece just on the edge of humor. The movement brought a harmony of harshness and finespun delicacy; at times, the dancers would drop into the ground, their feet percussive against the floor and at the next moment their arms intertwined into gentle braids. The lacking element laid in the partnering which consisted of mostly expected forms.
Vivid lighting by Michael Jarett and business-ey attire (buttoned all-the-way-up shirts and pants in muted tones) designed by Baye & Asa along with Jarett, created a dramatic formality. Featured in the piece, Tiare Keeno stood out for her brightness and attack brought to every step. With a bit of a surprise ending (its meaning I am still unsure of) that I won’t divulge here, The One to Stay With is certainly creative.
Fernando Hernando Magadan’s (d)elusive minds may have drawn “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from the audience immediately after the curtain went up but by curtain down, it was certainly a different tone.
A six-pane window frame hung on downstage right while a man on a chair perched upstage left. He is surrounded by a paper-mâché mountain peppered with fairy lights. There’s just something about fairy lights that make people happy (ask just about every “cute” restaurant in New York City). However bright the set may have looked, the bizarreness of the accompanying sound makes one question if what you’re looking at should be perceived as pretty or odd.
A narrator lists different types of people, “a writer discovers the characters he writes are real, alive… and in his basement” or “a housewife remembers absolutely everything”. The two dancers act out every persona with sound effects and props scattered about the stage. We start to move farther and farther away from pretty and closer to odd.
Dancers Tina Finkelman Berkett and Guzmán Rosado, also the Artistic Director and Associate Artistic Director respectively, moved with devotion.
(d)elusive minds required much more characterization than other pieces, having more of a “tanztheater” approach. A large portion consisted of the mini-character montages, taking time to get to the actual dancing.
Using Franz Schubert’s ominous and wonderful Trio Pour Piano as a musical backdrop was superbly fitting for the manic tone (program notes reveal the inspiration is the true story of a schizophrenic and violent husband). The music was re-edited to play some of Schubert’s notes on a loop that was frustratingly effective.
The solo work again out measured the partnering, leaving the final moments of choreography unmatched to the frenzied height of Schubert’s music.
The music of James Brown brought us back from intermission and the audience was pumped. The dancers were welcomed by supportive cheers and clapping for Micaela Taylor’s SNAP.
Featuring wide-spread fingers and tongue-baring open mouths, reminiscent of yoga’s Lion’s Breath move, SNAP featured metaphorical and literal moves, often mimicking the lyrics. The inclusion of recognizable social dances sent the audience cheering throughout and Ty Morrison’s animated acting brought excited energy to the stage.
Taylor builds a moment of thought-provoking contrast when three men dance to Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and then following, three women dance in silence, with only their puffy breaths as accompaniment. Meant to “urge audiences to ‘snap out of’ social pressures to conform”, the piece has an optimistic message although an uneven ending left the work frayed at the edges.
Ending with a bit of campy wit is Alejandro Cerrudo’s PACOPEPEPLUTO. Dimly lit (designed by Matthew Miller) and set to well-known Dean Martin songs, Cerrudo gives us three clean and unfussy male solos. Scantily clad in nude dance belts, each dancer bashfully covered their genitals. Dancers Joan Rodriguez, Pedro Garcia, and Guzmán Rosado showed athleticism and strong technique between moments of humor.
In juxtaposition to the other pieces with accompanied words, Cerrudo has his dancers move against the music and not because of it. The effect is pure and human. It’s a preciously short piece that helps add a period to the end of BODYTRAFFIC’s evening.
Featured Photo for BODYTRAFFIC review of Dancers Tina Berkett and Guzmán Rosado. Photo by Don Lee.
Nadia Vostrikov is a former television actress and dancer for Boston Ballet II, Alberta Ballet, and numerous freelance dance companies. She currently works as a Digital Marketer in NYC. (Photo by: Katrina Cunningham)