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    standing L-R: James McGinn, James Koroni, Szabi Pataki, Wendell Gray II in Jonah Bokaer: Rules of the Game
    Photo by Stephanie Berger
    standing L-R: James McGinn, James Koroni, Szabi Pataki, Wendell Gray II

    Soft Disruptions

    Jonah Bokaer's Rules of the Game at BAM Next Wave


    Jonah Bokaer uses the unorthodox thought process and precision he gleaned from his time dancing for Merce Cunningham and adds a pervasive softness to arrive at his own dance space, in Rules of the Game at BAM's Next Wave festival.

    Choreography by: Jonah Bokaer.
    Dancers: Jonah Bokaer, Wendell Gray II, Laura Gutierrez, James Koroni, Callie Lyons, James McGinn, Szabi Pataki, Sara Procopio, Betti Rollo.
    Music by: Stavros Gasparatos (Recess), Pharrell Williams (Rules).
    Costumes by: Richard Chai, Chris Stamp (Rules).
    Lighting design by: Aaron Copp.
    Scenography: Daniel Arsham.
    Music arrangement (Rules): David Campbell.
    BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
    November 10-12, 2016

    Bokaer's almost-solo Recess uses the BAM stage beautifully, with a roll of white seamless paper as the only stage element. Recess is clean, simple, satisfying, precise with an element of chance, a distillation of Bokaer's aesthetic. He enters with linear legs and curving arms, wonderfully fluid. Scooptorso turns stamp out a trademark movement pattern that continues through the night. The paper enters from tbe left side of the stage with a deft flick of his foot, a graphic, spreading plane of white across the black stage. Each element he adds is surprising and surprisingly subtle, from precise folding and handling of the paper to the black hole of missing paper that later forms a cape. A mostly invisible partner animates the paper Bokaer has torn strategically. Recess is charming and whimsical and very well thought-out, except perhaps for the arbitrary ending.

    Laura Gutierrez and Betti Rollo in Jonah Bokaer: Rules of the Game
    Photo by Stephanie Berger
    Laura Gutierrez and Betti Rollo

    Lighting design by Aaron Copp enhances Recess but drives Why Patterns, the second piece of the evening. It is a captivating and well-modulated exercise in abstraction and geometry, but the dancers often seem incidental and nondistinct, simply bodies moving clear tubes and ping-pong balls with precision and design. Whimsy and clever variation in the delivery of ping-pong balls to the stage win out, though, and the overall package is a success.

    Rules of the Game is an interesting but ultimately lulling culmination to the evening. Adobe-colored costumes match the adobe color of sculpted objects that float and crash on the rear-wall video projection. Cleverly layered hoodied clothes give the opening segment some mystery, as does the relationship between the dancers, two of whom brusquely restyle the others as if they are errant children. It is an odd dynamic that evolves but doesn't resolve as clothes come off. Balls onstage mirror those in the video, and the childplay theme continues as the dancers kneel around a square and roll the balls to each other through gaps that those dancing in the middle make. A soft quality permeates everything, even the slow-motion crashes onscreen, where sculpted heads and arms being obliterated by gravity and contact add an element of cringe. Though there is no specific credit for the gorgeous and non-distracting video, it seems to be some of the best of Daniel Arsham's contribution. The music feels play-appropriate but somewhat lethargic, as does the mood and movement onstage.

    Jonah Bokaer: Rules of the Game
    Photo by Stephanie Berger

    Softbeautiful movement and clever scenic abstractions may be ends in themselves or imply deeper meaning, but there is plenty of visual and sonic sustenance here.

    NOVEMBER 13, 2016

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