Dynamic Steady State

A trio of women dancers present Mark Jarecke Project’s “Dendron,” the last of a trilogy

By GUS SOLOMONS JR.

Entering St Mark’s Church on Thursday, February 10, each audience member received an individual radio receiver, tuned to a spot between stations, broadcasting static that became its own music. This was part of Jon Moniaci and Chris Peck’s computer sound score for the Mark Jarecke Project’s new “Dendron,” the last of a trilogy—along with “Auto.Publik” (2001) and “Endo” (2003)—that explores “the dynamic relationship between our architectural environment and our emotional one.”

Jarecke builds movement from mathematical explorations, worked out in collaboration with his dancers. He creates a kinetic texture of repetitive motifs, like patterned fabric, which he distributes in space and time to modulate mood and tone. His movement palette then becomes an element in an environment composed of architecture, sound and video. The images can be interpreted freely, as the elements interact in juxtaposition.

Matt Gagnon’s architectural installation comprised fabric-covered rectangular frames that hovered ten feet above the dance floor to form a low ceiling. Michael Gottlieb’s dramatic lighting from above these canvas clouds cast angular shadows—a grid of streets or hallways, and lights just below made them opaque and menacing. Sean Brown’s abstract video designs projected on the clouds as well as the walls and floor of the sanctuary, like the fleeting shadows cast by headlights on interior walls, as cars sped by.

Even though the persistent motion varied minimally, Jarecke built dynamic tension by varying the durations of activity and stillness, the locations of the dancers in the performing area and their relationship to each other and by his skillful interweaving of unison, counterpoint and canonic arrangements of the movement.

The talented trio of dancers added dramatic dimension to Jarecke’s smartly designed patterns. Regal Andrea Johnston, who has performed in all three installments of the trilogy, reposed with a fashion model’s slouch, but moved with feral power. Dark, sleek Netta Yerushalmy’s direct, take-charge presence paired fierce physicality with cool determination. Molly Poerstel’s curvy musculature and reticent presence melted gently into the ground, yielding, rather than challenging. All three had an intimacy with gravity that never let the turbulence of their movement become brutal.

They lurched into deep side lunges, spiraled into falls; hinged upward with their hips and rolled over the tops of their arches. Their arms grabbed at the air, wracking their torsos diagonally and pulling them off their equilibrium. They regarded the physical wrenching dispassionately; the only hint of emotion was heaving breath, when they stopped to wait impassively for the next encounter. Their faces remained expressionless and they rarely looked each other in the eyes, but the intensity of their connection was palpable.

Costumes by Maria Cornejo wrapped the dancers first in beige bodices and matching skirts that turned under at the hem.

For the second part of the hour-long piece, the bodices came off, allowing the loose dresses to fall freely around the bodies, like what a colleague described as negligees for pumpkins. Each woman briefly exited the space, leaving the remaining pair to interact one on one. At last, Yerushalmy left, then Johnston, and Poerstel, who had been kneeling throughout their duet, slowly collapsed, prone. The light faded, leaving us with a thousand provocative implications.

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