Opening Nights: #UNPROTECTED


Erickson Theater Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Ave., $15–$25. 8 p.m. Wed.–Fri. Ends May 23.

Choreographer Olivier Wevers has made a series of smart moves since he launched his company Whim W’him in 2010, both onstage and off. With this latest program—his longest performance series to date—and dancers now on contract, he’s looking to create a permanent company rather than work with a constantly shifting pick-up group. Alongside Wevers’ own choreography, colleagues Andrew Bartee and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa now return with new works. All three have a similar background, moving from classical to contemporary dance, and this shared DNA is clear in the specificity and articulation of their movement choices. Whatever the differences in theme or mood, a basic kinetic thread runs through the evening.

The title of Ochoa’s Les Biches may refer back to Bronislava Nijinska’s work for the Ballets Russes, but this is far from that ballet of society manners. Brandishing bright red elongated finger extensions like talons or antennae that rattle when their hands vibrate, a quartet of women prowls through the space, challenging one another for dominance. If human beings are social animals, then these are their antecedents—if not female deer (biches), then some kind of fiercely rivalrous creature.

Bartee’s I’m here but it’s not the same opens with a series of simple adjustments, as dancers move slightly during a blackout to reappear in a different location when the lights come back up. They add other subtle shifts as well, changing shape or direction, all of it calm and uninflected. Gradually the random movements become disconcerting, patterns overlap, and some of the dancers interact. Bartee keeps to a minimal palette, even as the movement becomes more dense, maintaining a sense of restraint through to the end.

Wevers has done some of his best work to classical music, and Above the Cloud, set to Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, is an excellent example of his musical intuition. Seven dancers in filmy white shirts have what could be described as a truly elegant pillow fight, dancing with a set of very large and very downy cushions. They drag them through the space; they clutch them and nap on them; they use them as a stopgap trampoline and as a palanquin. The plush of the pillows is matched by the luxury of the dancers’ movement, spinning and stretching in off-center abandon, inspiring us to go home and toss a couple pillows ourselves.

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