|Photo by Julie Lemberger|
|Jeff Kent Jacobs and Lindsey Dietz Marchant, with Elena Demyanenko in mirror|
Cleverness Finds its Limits
Pavel Zustiak throws a violent party
By QUINN BATSON
Joy and horror are inches apart in Pavel Zustiak's Weddings and Beheadings. Celebration and conflict are painted both sensual and ugly. And nudity is used to shock until it is no longer shocking.
Two women, Lindsey Dietz Marchant and Elena Demyanenko, start the evening in front of a scrim, dressed to party and frozen in ecstatic expressions. Over a painfully long time, their expressions morph subtly to horror and the themes of the evening have been set.
|PALISSIMO: WEDDINGS AND BEHEADINGS|
|Choreography by: Pavel Zustiak.|
Directed by: Pavel Zustiak.
Dancers: Elena Demyanenko, Jeff Kent Jacobs and Lindsey Dietz Marchant, Sho Ikushima.
Sound design by: Pavel Zustiak.
Set design by: Nick Vaughan.
Lighting design by: Joe Levasseur.
Projections concept and images: Robert Flynt.
Projections design and animation: Keith Skretch.
|92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival|
Ailey Citigroup Theater
March 11-15, 2009
In synopsis, people get into and out of clothes often, men fight while women dress, dancers show why they look good naked, and things happen quite often in slow motion. Twists of Slavic-accented English and projected photographs shifting over time add to the general flavor of mayhem and decay.
Weddings and Beheadings is a strange viewing experience for all the reasons listed. The dancers are excellent movers and performers with powerful and attractive bodies in various shapes and sizes. The duets between the men, Sho Ikushima and Jeff Kent Jacobs, are a really good combination of sensual and brutal. The naked solos are impressive. Yet the presentation devices, pacing and muddy imagery feel at times more distracting than intriguing, like choreographic scrims to match those hanging in front of the stage for much of the piece.
Sound design plays a similar role, with a recurring theme of airplane cabin ambience roughed up occasionally by military jet noises and an explosion once or twice to go with the exploding party balloons being popped onstage in moments of darkness.
Some clever devices work fairly well by themselves, such as the use of numbered cards, similar to crime scene markers, to read news headlines from so that Demyanenko can repeat them randomly, or the use of an onstage strobe to "flash" pictures of couples in all variations of gender and clothes combinations. And a stark piñata scene brings the themes of violence and parties together well.
An ending of full light with the performers joining the audience to watch everyone in full-length mirros along the back wall feels arbitrary and random, like the old or oldstyle photographs projected during the piece. These and the nudity are likely intended to give the piece a universal human connection but don't come across that way. Though there is an overarching structure and feel and even an interesting progression, Weddings and Beheadings ultimately feels like a collection of clever bits that don't quite fit together.
|MARCH 19, 2009|
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