“Unidentifiable; Bodies” | Sidra Bell Dance New York at City Parks SummerStage in Central Park….
The first thing noticeable in Sidra Bell’s new work, Unidentifiable; Bodies, is that the dancers are wearing more clothing, lacking is the use of nudity with its austerity and impact it creates visually. Gone also is the gender ambiguity, men and women are just that, men and women, no distinction, no confusion. There is more lighting on the stage, absent is the fog and moody ambience with the dancers exiting and retreating back into shadows. Ms. Bell’s sound mix is repetitive with sounds like the firing of an industrial size machine gun, bap, bap, bap…..
There is a nod to Merce Cunningham in the movement construction, the way phrases would divide or stop only to began again somewhere else on the stage. Though each dancer moves in their own unique movement phrases there is still continuity found in the style and statement. Visually it is akin to what audible would be five people all talking at the same time in a small room, all speaking on the same subject but with each wishing to express their individual views.
The work is filled with movement that at times ranges just on the edge of abandonment, of total loss of control, but each time it is pulled back, reigned in. Minimalism is not a word I would associate with Ms. Bell’s work but here there are quiet moments of stillness, brief, but still present.
Arms swinging, legs flying through the air, Jonathan Campbell, with his arms to the side and folding towards his shoulders executes a series of chaînés turns that are first very fast, then, he slows them down, only to speed up again. It was fascinating to watch, a bit of a whirling dervish.
Unidentifiable; Bodies is different in style and statement from some of Ms. Bell’s past works such as Stella/A Series of Miniature Manifestos, Nudity or ReVue. So much is said at times in the dance when the dancers are doing so little. In this work Ms. Bell has stripped away everything extraneous, there is more honesty, a willingness to be seen as vulnerable.
Alexandra Johnson (Associate Artistic Director) has never danced better, when on stage she demands attention, she is in immediate ownership of the space around her. She is the sun with the other dancers but satellites caught in her gravity.\
Ms. Johnson is able to tell a story with her body in her own unique movement language and style. Other dancers may repeat the same phrases of movement as just completed by Ms. Johnson but none will have her authority. She is the rare dancer that can swing from strong and formidable to sensitive and emotionally exposed in a mid-phrase of movement. Bravo Ms. Johnson, bravo indeed….
If Sidra Bell were a decade or two or three older I would lean toward identifying Unidentifiable; Bodies as evidence that Ms. Bell is entering a post-classical stage in her choreographic career. But as Ms. Bell is not a decade or two or three older I would have to say that Ms. Bell is pushing her creative vision, she is discovering a new way of speaking and exhibiting great courage in stepping away from the identities of her past work to show us a side of Ms. Bell we have not seen before. Sensitive, emotionally raw and primal…..
About City Parks Foundation
City Parks Foundation (CPF) is the only independent, nonprofit organization to offer park programs throughout the five boroughs of New York City. We work in over 750 parks citywide, presenting a broad range of free arts, sports, and education programs, and empowering citizens to support their parks on a local level. Our programs and community building initiatives reach more than 600,000 people each year, contributing to the revitalization of neighborhoods throughout New York City.