Posts Tagged ‘Adam Weinert’

Eclipse, A New Work for BAM’S Newest Space

Monday, September 10th, 2012

By Rachel Straus

Jonah Bokaer in "Eclipse." Photo: Stephanie Berger

Choreographer Jonah Bokaer and visual artist Anthony McCall’s world premiere of Eclipse inaugurated the BAM Richard B. Fisher Building with six sold out performances from September 5th through 9th. The hour-long work (seen on the 9th) in the new black box theater was configured so that the audience flanked four sides of the dark, carpeted, stage space. The performance began when Bokaer approached one of the lowest hanging bulbs and knelt to Thomas Edison’s invention. Like the sun god Apollo, Bokaer’s penetrating gaze into the bulb’s opaque surface caused its illumination.

Bokaer’s ability to make this opening moment feel mysterious and important is part of the reason why he has captured the attention of museum curators, visual artists and the international dance set. He has an indelible stage presence and is a beautiful mover, though less and less is he demonstrating the range of his physical virtuosity. Like the 1960s Judson Church Theatre founders, Bokaer is saying no to most of his training, which includes ballet, Martha Graham and the Merce Cunningham techniques. His chosen vocabulary for Eclipse is spare, includes lots of sharp starts and stops, and numerous sculptural poses. All are executed with an intense seriousness.

Because Bokaer’s first encounter with McCall’s slowly illuminating lighting installation was gripping (but became less so the second and third time) and because McCall’s “sonic score” for the four dance scenes was solely comprised of the ceaseless tick-tick of an ancient film projector, Bokaer had a real theatrical problem on his hands: How to proceed. On top of that, McCall’s installation of 120 watt light bulbs and old-time theater sound evoked a nostalgia for a previous technological era. In contrast Bokaer has increasingly embraced new technology as a launchpad for developing choreography. Consequently, the most notable eclipse in Eclipse was this difference between Bokaer and McCall’s apparent interests.

Dancers Tal Adler-Arieli, CC Chang, Sara Procopio and Adam Weinert first appeared in the slightly claustrophobic space like ghostly sleepwalkers. Later they became sculptual set pieces graced by Aaron Copp’s chiaroscuro lighting. By the performance’s end, each excellent dancer had performed a short solo.  But unlike Bokaer’s solo—which possessed the tenseness of a perilous traffic blockage with Bokaer as a topnotch traffic cop (pumping his fists outwards from his chest, slashing his arms and changing directions with knife-like precision)—the solos Bokaer choreographed for each of his four dancers didn’t marry gesture with any clear sense of intent.

What was most impressive during the course of the performance was that none of the dancers collided with McCall’s lightbulbs as they traversed through his confidence course-like installation. Also fascinating was when the dancers performed fast-moving phrases inches from both the audience and the illuminated hanging bulbs. During these moments, the performers eclipsed the light.

Eclipse was structured into four scenes by three blackouts during which time deafening sounds (the rumblings of a train, an overhead helicopter) poured out of the speakers directly above the audience’s heads. This experience eclipsed my desire to have ear drums.

In the final section, the dancers moved for the first and last time in unison. They flattened their bodies to the floor to become two-dimensional figures signaling to a subterranean world. Bokaer soon reappeared and took his orginal kneeling pose beside a low hanging suspended bulb. When the dancers took their bows, I had almost as many questions and images hovering through my head as the number of light bulbs hanging in the space.

But the confounding part of Eclipse was not it sense of impenetrable mystery, but the contents of the playbill. Bokaer’s page-long biography made no mention of the fact that he had danced for Merce Cunningham Dance Company. At 18 years old, Bokaer joined the troupe. Cunningham’s aesthetic is firmly rooted in Bokaer’s works, which are chock full of off-center balances, electronic scores and computer technology. Most of all by performing Cunningham’s dances across the world, in the most highly esteemed theaters from 2000 to 2007, Bokaer came to the attention of avant garde composers, visual artists and critics. When Bokaer began to choreograph, he wasn’t some young choreographer with a BA in Visual & Media Studies. He was Cunningham’s favorite male dancer.

Bokaer’s ommission of Cunningham is nonetheless the sign of a true modernist. This originator must eclipse—must totally obscure—the father figure.