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Sit, Kneel, Stand: Gallim Dance & The Gotham Danced Festival at The Joyce Theater.

June 16, 2012

Gallim Dance ‘s Arika Yamada (Forefront), Mario Bermudex-Gil, Francesca Romo in Andrea Miller’s “Sit, Stand, Kneel” Photo by Christopher Duggan

I knew nothing about Gallim Dance and the only thing I knew about  Andrea Miller’s “Sit, Kneel, Stand” was it is….”Inspired by the myth of Sisyphus and set to an original music composition by Jerome Begin and Christopher Lancaster, “Sit, Kneel, Standis an evening-length work that explores the mix of absurdity and joy in the restless efforts of our shared human experience”…That was it.

Sisyphus was after all condemned to an eternity at hard labor and had the arduous task of rolling a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down, and then he would have to start all over again. So, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into, I expected a lot of boulder rolling.

Before the house lights went down I noticed Francesca Romo down left in front of the first row , she has one leg up on the stage and was trying, unsuccessfully to climb upon it. She then moves over a foot or two and tries to actually lift the stage, when this does not work she scampers on repeating these actions in varying degrees, eventually Ms. Romo is able to lift herself onto the stage and I do mean lift herself. She grabs one leg with her arm, then positions it, then uses her other arm to lift the other leg, it takes several minutes for her to actually get on stage and be able to stand for she has to position each part of her body just right in order for it to respond. This using the hands to position and propel the body in its required direction is an own going motive throughout the dance.

Gallim Dance in Andrea Miller’s “Sit, Stand, Kneel”. Photo by Christopher Duggan

Dan Walczak and Jonathan Royse Windham are center stage and begin to throw punches and kicks that were a mad mixture of Capoeira and Hong Kong style martial arts with appropriate sound effects.

Dancers begin to run about and assume different scenarios, three dancers together, one kneeling the other two standing only to have another dancer run over and reposition them body part by body part till they got the exact affect and positioning they wanted. During all this mayhem Mr. Windham is  trying to carry Troy Ogilvie  precariously on his shoulder.

Ms. Romo decides that Mario Bermudex-Gil  would be a perfect match for Arika Yamada and proceeds in the attempt to get them together. Neither Mr. Bermudex-Gil nor Ms. Yamada seems to have little interest or even aware of the other. That does not deter Ms. Romo, all the while muttering and mumbling about how the two are causing her such difficulty by being unaccommodating,  proceeds to manipulate Mr. Bermudex-Gil painstakingly body part by body part towards Ms. Yamada. Laboriously she almost gets them to the perfect spot where they could cross paths only to have one or the other veer off direction at the last critical moment. A very distraught Ms. Romo would then have to restart the whole process. When she finally does get them together, neither has the least interest in the other much to Ms. Romo’s great disappointment.

Gallim Dance ‘s Arika Yamada (Forefront), Mario Bermudex-Gil, Francesca Romo in Andrea Miller’s “Sit, Stand, Kneel” Photo by Christopher Duggan

While watching the performance I thought I do not have the slightest idea how I am going to describe, must less attempt to explain Ms. Miller’s Sit, Kneel, Stand. It is rare when I am at a loss for words and just decided to write what I was experiencing….that this was the most perplexing, strangely fascinating and unexpectedly enjoyable time I had in a while.

My companion was thrilled with the work. We were both amazed by Arika Yamada, she is just awesome, her singular focus had us drawn to her every move and gesture. Mario Bermudex-Gil is extraordinary to watch, handsome and dashing he possess great  timing that is just enough and never too much. Francesca Romo, what can you say but…wow! What she is able to convey with a gesture or look is amazing.

Was it dance/theater? One can argue the fine points of whether it was or wasn’t till the cows come home. I would say that it is Andrea Miller’s own unique hybrid of kinetic construction and theatrical expression. Would I see it again, YES…in fact I hope to see any future performances of Gallim Dance I can…and recommend you do the same…

Gallim Dance in Andrea Miller’s “Sit, Stand, Kneel”. Photo by Christopher Duggan

Gallim Dance’s biography stated that the group’s work “embodies fearless physicality grounded by deep humanity expressed through the madness and the joy of imagination.” ”  I can whole-hearted attest to that as a gospel fact! There was certainly joy, certainly imagination and most certainly some madness. To say Sit, Stand, Kneel is the visualization in the futility of getting people to do just what you want is an understatement.

As Artistic Director and choreographer of Gallim Dance, Andrea Miller has in five years developed an internationally acclaimed company hailed by the New York Times as “excellent [and] inventive” and by the New York Press for its “delicious strangeness, fierce aggression, and raw beauty.”

Ms. Miller is a graduate of the Juilliard School where she received her BFA in Dance. Upon graduating, Miller joined Ohad Naharin’s Ensemble Batsheva in Israel from 2004 to 2006. In 2007 she returned to New York City and established Gallim Dance.

Gallim Dance in Andrea Miller’s “Sit, Stand, Kneel”. Photo by Christopher Duggan

She is the 2012 recipient of the Joyce SoHo Artist Residency as well as the inaugural artist in residence at New York City Center. In 2009, she was selected for Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.” She is also the recipient of the 2009 Princess Grace Foundation Fellowship in choreography.

Gallim Dance was part of the Gotham Dance Festival at the Joyce Theater. In its two weeks the festival presented five programs featuring the work of ten choreographers. This year’s festival also featured a program celebrating American female choreographers, both established as well as emerging.

The Gotham Arts Festival is produced by the Gotham Arts Exchange, an organization set up to provide services to the New York dance community. Founded in 2001, the organization is led by Ken Maldonado (Producer & Director) and Burke Wilmore (Associate Producer). The Gotham Arts Exchange has been presenting dance companies in shared weeks at The Joyce Theatre since 2006.

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