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  •  REVIEW: ECSTERIORITY

      Wally Cardona and Derry Swan in Ecsteriority
      Photo by Kimberly Bartosik
      Wally Cardona and Derry Swan
    Odd Couples One and Two

    Kimberly Bartosik's Ecsteriority1&2

    By ELIZABETH BACHNER
    Offoffoff.com


    In Kimberly Bartosik's Ecsteriority1&2, the space of St. Mark's Church is transformed from one of religion and beauty to a vast ruin, at once prehistoric and futuristic. Bone-white plaster dogs are lit up along the steps, and a pile of dog heads, looking strangely at first like human joints, sits in the corner. Audience members are ushered into a triangular arrangement of seats with a black wall at the top, creating a vortex effect. The music begins before the show, and the first duo of dancers (Elke Rindfleisch and Marc Mann) pace, separately, behind the audience, as if they're already exhausted, coming shell-shocked out of a long ordeal with their bodies on automatic pilot, ready to keep moving until the last moment.

    ECSTERIORITY
    Choreography by: Kimberly Bartosik.
    Dancers: Wally Cardona, Marc Mann, Elke Rindfleisch, Derry Swan.
    Music by: Luke C. Fasano.
    Set design by: Kimberly Bartosik and Roderick Murray.
    Lighting design by: Roderick Murray.
     SCHEDULE
    Danspace St. Mark's Church
    November 7-9, 2008

      
    As Ecsteriority1 begins, the dancers inhabit a space that is clearly difficult for them. At first, they are bound together, not in an erotic clinch, but as if they are burdened by each other's corporeality and sheer weight. When they pull apart and move to separate areas of the stage, Mann's body seems seized by an external force, forcing him to the ground and into spasmodic death throes and other paroxysms of movement. Yet, when he stands, some of these paroxysms seem to afford him a pure power. Rindfleisch's more deliberate movements ironically seem similarly out of her control, as if she's possessed by a force that keeps her methodically struggling to transform her situation long after her wrought, human body has expended its resources. When the dancers confront the wall, it's unclear whether they are trying to break through it, or merge with it, or engage it in a troubled act of lovemaking.

    In Ecsteriority2, the second duo of dancers (Derry Swan and Wally Cardona) is more estranged from each other than the first, and they engage even more with the decaying space of the nighttime dog-graveyard. Cardona's movements are taut, as if he's suspended by wires, or as if he is a wire. Each dancer has changing relationships to their soundtrack and environment. At one moment, Swan rubs her foot against the ground as if she's creating a cicada-like sound. At another, Cardona lies beside a dog that Swan has wrapped in fur, and whispers what seems to be some terrible prayer. Is he dying with the dog, trying to resuscitate it, or merely participating in a ritual for its loss?

    Although each piece in Ecsteriority1&2 features two dancers, one male and one female, the dancers don't have relationships with each other's bodies that are at all predictable, and the story of each piece isn't what you might assume from viewing the couple. Similarly, each dancer's unique movements are minor in the musical sense, meaning that they never hit a predictable note, and the body never moves in the way that you'd expect from watching it. Yet there is enormous strength and intentionality in the distinctive movements of all four dancers. Both pieces address an unsettling edge where the mechanical meets the organic, and both allow the viewer to see the human body in a new light.

    The pieces are not interlinked in any obvious way, but there are profound and subtle connections between them. Rather than having an intermission between them, ushers ask the audience to move out of their chairs and onto the large carpeted steps behind them. In both pieces, the dancers confront the audience by moving close to us. Marc Mann, surveying the boundaries of his space, stands very near people who are sitting in the front row. Elke Rindfleisch takes off her shirt and gives it to a man to hold, as if for safekeeping. As Ecsteriority2 begins, Wally Cardona stands very near the audience and removes a layer of black clothing, revealing another underneath and carefully placing his discarded garments in small mounds, like burial objects. The arrangement of the audience in both parts means that when we watch the dancers, we also see each other.

    Both parts of Ecsteriority1&2 whittle the body down to its essence, and beyond, raising challenging questions about physicality, decay, and internal and external space. This is exciting work, careful and intentional without being overly constructed. The eerie sets and haunting, unpredictable original score create a transporting atmosphere, but it is the intense work of the four dancers that brings Bartosik's innovative choreography into sharp relief. Each dancer embodies a unique brand of strength and precision, yet is tormented into a loss of control, into exploring the edges of space and the problems of physical limitation.

    NOVEMBER 12, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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