An Unmoored Island

Austere dance, on green themes, in a 15x15 space.

In 2004, Allison Van Dyck filled the old Consolidated Works space with a show that had dancers walking on walls, partnering with their video-projected images, and setting up house behind a hole in the wall. In her newest work, she has narrowed her focus considerably, to a mat measuring 15 feet square in the middle of a concrete floor. Where her prior show evoked a kind of circus atmosphere, with the audience strolling from room to room, The Snow Project is much more austere in both its setting and movement invention.With the overhead lights initially turned off, we have to strain our eyes to "see" the dancers enter. We listen intently to the whisper of their feet on the floor. But just as our pupils are at their widest, the lights and sound swell, and we flinch away from the bright noise. The pattern repeats several times, and it's a relief when the volume and intensity finally moderate.Van Dyck is a gravely beautiful dancer, with an attenuated silhouette that appears relaxed even when she's twisted in a welter of knots. The movement she's crafted for fellow dancers Corrie Befort, Jim Kent, and Jody Kuehner is equally lovely, and the four of them maneuver together easily in the limited space. They flock like birds as they shift positions, taking care to stay within the borders of the mat, like gymnasts competing in a floor exercise.Their relationships are mostly practical rather than dramatic; the logistics of partnering are influenced more by square footage than romance. At one point Kuehner walks up Befort's back, levering herself into a shoulder stand as Befort scoots beneath her. But whereas in another context this sequence could represent a glossary of emotions, here it is primarily a physical act, a beautiful and quirky example of what bodies can do.But just when we think we've settled into a display of technical possibilities, things start to transform. The dancers peel back the tape holding their mat together, changing a single island into a set of unmoored squares. They lift up flat panels to reveal silvery mylar underneath, like a series of puddles reflecting the sun. Leftover panels become little fences or piles—obstacles enhanced by the lighting's change to a mild strobe effect. What had been a serene environment is now agitated and unsure.From there, it's an easy step to assume The Snow Project is an essay on climate change, a commentary on global warming in a chilly room. The piled-up flooring becomes an iceberg, with the mylar a stand-in for the shimmer of glacial melt. The dancers could be polar bears or seals, continually adjusting to their shrinking turf. Lost is the subtlety of the evening's earlier choreography, which was a whisper in our ears, not an elbow to our ribs.

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