I saw Shen Wei Dance Arts performing *Neither* at BAM on 10/5. The music is an opera by Milton Babbitt and Samuel Beckett - - I heard it in 2011 at the (late) New York City Opera, on a triple bill of "monodramas." They presented it with Schoenberg's *Erwartung* and John Zorn's abstract "Machine de L'Etre." *Neither* was the most exciting piece on the program, I loved it. The music is thorny for the orchestra and wispy and disembodied for the soprano, and that combination is fascinating.
I hoped that Shen Wei Dance Arts would be using live music, but of course it would cost them thousands of dollars to hire a soprano and a full orchestra, it's so much easier for them to use canned music. I understand that, but I don't have to be happy about it. The dance piece was an engrossing intellectual exercise, I really enjoyed it. Lots of anxious enigmas. Lots of gently writhing movements I had never seen before. It's nice when a choreographer uses movements you've never seen before, don't you agree? More bang for your buck.
He had three trios onstage at the start, eventually fanning out to become nine independent dancers: Shen Wei, the choreographer, has a deep and sure sense of space, pattern, and rhythm, always used to express the music.
Final section: a smaller woman walked out, holding a clear latex tent over her head. She walked to the back of the stage, one of the other dancers rolled a tall narrow set of stairs to the back wall. Somehow she must have gotten strapped to the back of one of the dancers, because she started floating up the stairs, looking heavenward all the while. They got to the top, settled on the landing, and she slowly crumpled to the floor. And the male dancer slowly rose over her as the lights dimmed, the one menacing moment of the piece.
The very ending had seven dancers coming onstage, one at a time, holding aloft more of those latex tent thingies. They cast them off and underneath they were each wearing a brightly colored latex jumpsuit or hostess pyjama (acid yellow, lime, hot pink), and they were dancing in a much more lyrical and lovely manner. I have to say that I would dance like that too, if I were wearing a hot pink or acid yellow latex hostess pyjama. Eventually they languidly fell to the floor, and three other dancers came on in their previous washed-out monochromatic looks. They danced around for a bit and the group behind them unobtrusively slithered offstage. The three dancers on the front left and there were no dancers onstage, just that heap of discarded latex tents. And then a moment of pure theatrical magic: the latex tents started to rise up off the floor and rose up in a poetic heap to the fly space over the stage. I guess the latex dancers had attached wires to the latex tents while the dancers in the front were doing their thing, and I hadn't noticed. Dazzling.
I was sitting on the aisle, so I made the most of that and shot out of the theater as soon as the audience started to applaud. This is my MO for the last few years, it gets me to the subway platform (and potentially home) a good 15 minutes earlier. All I could think of on my brisk walk to the Atlantic Terminal station: Richard should be so glad he wasn't here tonight. He would have HATED this. I really enjoyed it!