Poignant Juxtapositions in ‘Wild Type’ Programming at the BCA

Words by Kathryn Boland | Images by Siobhan Beasley 

Ways of perceiving the world are as numerous as people living on the earth. We each have our own aesthetic and sensory styling that we prefer to receive as well as put out into the world. The art of dance holds the power of framing and refining our worldviews, as well as our aesthetics. Wild Type at the Boston Center for the Arts on November 2nd, 2018, with five individual works from four different artists, exemplified that truth: I experienced a compelling variety of aesthetics offered as ways to understand our shared human experience.

Various artists came together from Greater Boston, New York City, and New England to realize the concert. Each brought a distinct point of view, yet the works shared a daring, raw edge that was smoothed and polished through skillful execution and technique (from choreography to performance quality to lighting). Two works in struck me as poignant, particularly in juxtaposition to each other.

Joy Davis’s Bodies Of juxtaposed the facts of hard science and the less certain nature of being human  with movement, speech, and props. The work began with the two dancers, Joy Davis and Alex Davis, moving together, one a bit farther downstage than the other. Their limbs and hips moved in figure eights and other spirals, electronica music in harmony with their movement. Their arms and legs brought an inventive geometry to their turns.

Later in the piece, Joy recited scientific facts into the microphone, while Alex leapt with an easy power yet, upstage and left of her, in his own spotlight. The content of her speech and the raw power in his movement were in stark contrast:one inarguable and definite, and the other, ineffable and impossible to fully capture in words. Soon they switched places. Alex spilled and spread around tiny slips of paper, which looked like fortunes from cookies.

He then picked up individual pieces and read their words aloud. Some he imbued with humor and irony; other statements he shared were poetic, poignant, and deep, such as,“the human equivalent to gravity is attunement.” One of these statements in particular seemed to get at a larger meaning of the piece, the aspects of existence that lie beyond the grasp of scientific understanding: “we live in a universe that is incalculable by science.” All the while, Joy moved with graceful strength. A single raising of an arm and leg would lead to a striking fall-and-recover; her weight released to the ground before quickly being caught and rising back up.

Leaving the microphone, Alex joined her and they moved together to finish the piece. Throughout, the raw truth of the body in space contrasted the scientific knowledge they spoke. The Davis dancers did not prescribe answers, rather their work only seemed to generate more questions for me.

Following Bodies of was a more emotional representation of a much larger sociopolitical issue, You are Not Yours, choreographed by Junichi Fukuda and danced by Fukuda and Haruka Tamura.

A Spartan aesthetic was clear from the very start: a pared-down lighting plot, grey costumes in a simple cut, and a voiceover score. The dancers entered, Tamura on Fukuda’s back. “I’m one of the good ones, aren’t I?” said the voiceover speaker in a thick Scottish accent. The disembodied voice continued on to describe herself as  an immigrant who was more respected than other kinds of immigrants, because of white skin and speaking English — a fact which disgusted her. “I am saddened by the privilege afforded to me, when others are locked out,” she attested. The aesthetic and mystery surrounding the voiceover built a blank canvass which audience members could fill for themselves in their own minds. Meanwhile, Tamura was lying on the floor, raising a limb now and then. Fukuda walked around the space. Grey-blue lighting set a somber midnight atmosphere.  

Later, Tamura rose to rest on Fukuda’s shoulder before lunging forwards. She leapt and landed in attitude, only to then fall back into Fukuda again. The movement seemed to be an exploration of what their bodies could do, and in what timing they could do it. Syncopation, through stop-and-go dynamics, aligned with the spoken score in striking ways. There was a quality of bouncing from a release into the floor while using it for momentum. Through it all, they worked together as one breath, one beating heart. “I am no more, no better than anyone else….I am, we are, because we are all equal,” the voice said. As compared to Bodies of, it was a different, yet no less meaningful, way for dance to speak to the misunderstandings and injustices endured in our current human condition.

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