Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre: Shifting Dynamics in a Moving Environment

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Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre presented its twelfth annual performance season two weeks ago at New York Live Arts. The season was presented through the New York Live Arts Theater Access Program, by which various performing groups may rent the space and receive production support. Amanda Selwyn’s Detour was an ensemble piece, and most of the four women and four men danced for the majority of the 50 minutes, excepting short solos and duets that emerged from the group. The group was cohesive and exceptionally strong technically, which made the dynamic and energetic dancing very enjoyable to watch. The music consisted of fourteen different songs by at least ten different artists; I was impressed that the selections went together as well as they did.

Amanda Selwyn Dance Theater in “Detour” Photo by Nir Arieli

Part I of the three-part work, entitled “Illusion,” began with all eight dancers on stage, each with his or her own spotlight with a break-up pattern to create the effect of dappled light. Also on the stage were several tall, cylindrical lights on wheels that were moved around and removed and replaced on stage a number of times throughout the performance. In theory, they were attractive, mobile, glowing lights that symbolized the idea suggested by the quote from Deng Ming-Dao in the performance program: “The world is movement. Its nature is change, infinite variation.” The lights allowed a change in the environment on the stage, but it was a superficial change and I wasn’t entirely convinced that they ought to be there. Still, they did not disrupt or impede the dancing in any way.  Likewise, projections on the back wall of the theater featured faint, moving images of the dancers and neither detracted nor added to the performance.

Detour progressed from each dancer experiencing a private world, with slow movements and long pauses between poses, to more interaction within the group in the form of alternately tender and aggressive duets between same and opposite sex couples. In Part III, “Glimpses,” the dancers seemed to really enjoy themselves, as the tempi in the songs increased. In a section in which Selwyn had the group stand in a clump and dance in a canon, the close proximity of the dancers created a visually exciting effect. The strength of Selwyn’s Detour was founded upon a consistent artistic vision in which all of the elements seemed to cohere, even if the themes of change were not made explicit.

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