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    2018-2019 reviews:



    Noemie Lafrance's "Noir," a Lower East Side garage dance, brings the kiss of life to an old genre.


    In "Noir," as in a musical, an everyday experience like going to your car in a dark and creepy parking garage turns into a song and dance. But the characters in Noemie Lafrance's choreography "Noir" are familiar from the '40's films for which they were created. Dancer Tori Sparks is dressed in Mildred Pierce's mink jacket. The audience is seated in parked cars. She walks to hers. Is she a latecomer to the show or has the performance begun?

    Choreography by: Noemie Lafrance.
    Produced by: The Whitney Biennial, Danspace and Sens Production.
    Dancers: Einy Aam, Andy Black, Eric Bradley, Jeff Crumrine, David Kieffer, Jon Kowalski, Ori Lenkinski, Tori Sparks, Emma Stein, Ksenia Vidyaykina.
    Music by: Brooks Williams.
    Lighting design by: Thomas Dunn.
    Municipal garage on Essex and Delancey
    May 4-29, 2004

    The prelude of Brooks Williams multi-textured score is already piping through the car radios. It includes mellowed conversation, an engine turning, lines lifted from the films, and laptop tunes that can turn the stomach with apprehension. The sound corroborates closely in the plan to unseat spectators — to transport them through the vaguely narrative noir dance experience.

    The parking garage is half the depth of a city block. Its fourth floor aisle is a luxuriously large performance area. Dancers disappear around the lower ramp. Thomas Dunn's remarkable lighting scheme includes a bluish atmosphere over an upper ramp that backlights the action in the main aisle.

    While we gawk at suitcases and bodies lowered into car trunks, the real spectacle, as in any dance, is the movement. Phrases are repeated, patterns in time and space are created with the assured black and white clad dancers. The visual complexity is exponentially multiplied with several costume changes. Sequences start and stop often with visceral intensity and musical rhythm and structure.

    Couples hold large cinematographer's mirrors that offer viewers a dizzying perspective of the romantic scenes. Lafrance's movie characters are explorations of gender identity and relations. The women look worn or bemused. Then they display graceful independence spaced along the aisle in a dance of white-gloved gestures. In racing furtive moves and handy partnering, the men are revealed as protective — in control but clueless. And not particularly gallant. The picture is not a happy one. 'I hate you so much I think I'm gonna die from it,' is a line from "Gilda" embedded in the score that somehow sums things up.

    'I hate you so much I think I'm gonna die from it,' is a line from "Gilda" embedded in the score that somehow sums things up.  

    The only scene that reeks with joy is an impromptu ballroom scene full of whirling leggy lifts and spins. But the morning after, dancers run this way and that with suitcases that are surely not filled with good intentions. Blinds are pulled down and women look out with anxious expressions at what is unlikely to be 'corn as high as an elephants eye.'

    Emergency sirens ring in appropriate places and the getaway car is headed for Essex Street. The staging presents obvious challenges but Lafrance choreographs with movement inspired by a noir bricolage. It emerges as fresh, original, and significant. The sound is old, but intelligible and clear as a bell.

    MAY 13, 2004

    Reader comments on Noir:

  • Fabulous Show!!!   from Susan Winters, May 17, 2004
  • [no subject]   from , May 19, 2004
  • "Noir"   from , May 28, 2004
  • Curious about Andrew Black?   from Jenn, Jan 9, 2006

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