Nudity: Sidra Bell Dance New York at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, May 30 – June 1, 2013….
Sidra Bell’s choreography is a statement, an idea, an ideology. It is not just movement, motion and shapes but an expression of the exploration of the human condition. It is thought made visible, kinetic awareness created via synaptic response that has been influenced by both external and internal stimuli.
Nudity, which Ms. Bell premiered in 2012 at the ODC Theater in San Francisco, is a dialogue created in both movement and voice. The dialogue exists not just between the dancers themselves but also they are speaking to us, the audience.
When you walk into the Nagelberg Theater at the Baruch Performing Arts Center the stage has been transformed to an area of whiteness, white walls and white floor. At the edges of the stage are fluorescent lights and the score is a compilation of Inca Ore, Wolf Eyes, William Fowler Collins and Low Motion Disco.
The movement vocabulary ranges from spasmodic body jolts, pedestrian acts and hand gestures interspersed with ballet and voiced dialogue. Movement originates in the body’s torso with the limbs following the initial flow of energy. The body shapes deviate from being off-kilter to very linear.
The dancers are wearing little more than black fish-nets and see-thru tops with extremely long false eyelashes, their hair in a single long braid down their back. The look is reminiscent of a Twenty-First Century Goth Inspired Renaissance Courtesan that’s out club hopping at three in the morning.
The stage at time seems some sort of surreal dance class, exercises are called out and the phrases are then demonstrated by two dancers. Another two take their place when they have completed the exercise. The phrases grow longer and faster as it continue.
Alexandra Johnson instructs Jonathon Campbell for a phrase of movement and begins to verbally assault him when it is not done to perfection, and then makes him do it again and again till he gets it right.
The hand is moved back and forth in front of the face as if trying to dispel thoughts unwanted. A dancer will stop and start to hop up and down and use their hands as if trying to get something off their chests. Great importance is placed on the hands as they repeatedly try to alter or frame the face.
Nudity is definitely not boring, sharp imagery is created by the use of silhouettes and shadows which alternates with bright white light that becomes almost antiseptic in its deletion of darkness.
Mr. Campbell is seen talking to himself while Making the Sign of the Cross seeking solace and/or forgiveness. Austin Diaz performs a solo that it pure wildness contained, but barely. Dancers will come together in pairs, while one seeks to caress, the other pushes away. Some of the movement seems silly but it is done with such intensity it becomes a serious statement.
In the middle of an intense moment of movement the dancers suddenly stop, look up and all say “Oh, Sh*t!” in unison. Dancers run into the audience, whispering into people’s ears or intimately touching their faces, the space between audience and performance instantly erased. The dancers then strangely back their way on to the stage wearing strange expressions on their faces, eyes wide, mouth twisted. It was more than spooky and a little uncomfortable.
Nudity is a macabre dance class, or a lesson in life, depending on your view. Some may argue it is a dance class deconstructed. But it is Sidra Bell doing what she does best, provoking thought and establishing a dialogue of movement that is original and nonconformist.
Nudity was performed by Jonathan Campbell, Austin Diaz, Rachel Patrice Fallon, Alexandra Johnson and Rebecca Margolick with production, lighting and décor by Amith Chandrashaker, directed by Sidra Bell .