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    Complete archive, 1999-present

    2018-2019 reviews:


      Placid Baby
    The kids are O.K.

    Sam Kim's "Placid Baby" comes of age in the land of teen pop.


    The shadow of a large blossoming tree created against the stage wall by lighting designer Michael Stiller expands the already large romper room on PS 122's second floor. No matter that chairs and tables are stacked neatly in the corner; the space is used to advantage by choreographer Sam Kim and dancers, whose shadows create larger than life dancing crowds where the wings would be on a proscenium stage.

    In fact this evening-length dance could be said to be a coming of age parody in which spirituality is yearned for in a teen pop culture environment. The six dancers, including the small but authoritative Kim, reach above with wide eyes upturned like doll eyes or figures in mannerist paintings. They awaken rubbing the eyes and what follows is high tension. The club dance and clapping games are unabashedly casual. In one fast-paced multi-directional scamper, the ensemble, in a moment of placidity, nears collision. The choreography seems to follow the kid rock faithfully even pausing several times for a spoken preparation — and a 1,2,3,4. If you know the high-pitched Japanese or English lyrics and simple electronic beat of Book of Love, Puffy Ami Yumi, and Yaz and Neu, then perhaps you can imagine the dance.

    Choreography by: Sam Kim.
    Directed by: Sam Kim.
    Dancers: Jennifer Allen, Stacey Carlson, Tracy Dickson, Anneke Hansen, Sam Kim and Tania Varela-Ibarra .
    Music by: Book of Love, Puffy Ami Yumi, Yaz and Neu.
    Lighting Design by Michael Stiller, Visual Design by Sam Kim
    P.S. 122
    150 First Ave. at 9th St.
    Nov. 13-16, 2003

    Kim states in the program that Raymond Pettibon's elegant comical sketches inspired her. In the gallery where she saw them she was surprised that noone was laughing except herself. Even Kim isn't laughing at this performance; her demeanor is severe and no laughter was heard from the audience over the dense music. The complex choreography of lumbering moves, exaggerated walks, and playful runs are serious fun but do not convey an accessible irony. The necessary abandonment is not yet in the repertoire. However, Kim's superbly deployed language of movement parallels Pettibon's translation of his own pop culture experience. Her ruminative sense of time and space, though relieved by pauses of darkness that break the dance into acts, recalls a gallery of the sketches hung floor to ceiling and punctuated by rhythmic repetition of motifs.

    But more so, the actual feeling of the dance resembles the flower and mushroom decals of Takeshi Murakami or the megalomaniacal constructions of Mariko Mori. The characters look like action-figurines but following the simplistic garage rock aesthetic, their movement is variably convincing. Symbolic headachy gestures, girlish twists, and gross body movements are repeated with an abstract timing that sidesteps dramatic expression.

      Kim speaks to the fallen victim with movement as if angry at the dead horse.
    Kim has the presence of an accomplished dancer but her squat movements do not always suit the different body types. Most of the costumes, especially Kim's, seem carefully designed to carry the movement, symbols, and gestures of the dance. But Allen's androgynous character is costumed in a glittered sweatervest, jeans and neckerchief that seem purposely crimping. The unease is blessedly abandoned at the end when Allen shows her stuff in a stand-up, sit-down, stand-up duet. Here these partners connect and transcend. Duets of the other dancers are equally original and fine. Solo dancing by Tania Varela-Ibarra is notably well done in an odd flowing gray dress that could be cumbersome had she not been able to pull it off so well. Unforgettable is the solo (duet?) where Kim dances at Allen who lays prone upstage. Kim speaks to the fallen victim with movement as if angry at the dead horse — in the same way that a ballerina would gesture toward the audience. Though the back side of Kim is much less interesting, what we don't see of her conversation is titillating; the power of her performance is equally conveyed.

    In the ABA format, the dancers end with arms again raised in benediction but as if they have looked up and not found a higher power.

    NOVEMBER 20, 2003

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