Nora Gibson Performance Project: Beautiful ArticulationsApr 14th, 2010 | By EllenGerdes | Category: Reviews
by Ellen Gerdes for The Dance Journal
“Vested Souls” performed at the Community Education Center this past weekend as a culmination of Nora Gibson’s New Edge residency offered both articulate movement and message. The work coupled pedestrian movement with ballet vocabulary in highly specific, structural choreography. Gibson believes that the communication of her work to her audience depends upon the technical execution and sequencing of movement rather than explicit emotional or dramatic expression.
An original music score textured with both classical instruments and found sound, composed by Michael Reiley McDermott, helped create the complex world of this piece. Gibson notes, “This work … delves into a world of people who are dedicated and expert, yet deeply ambivalent about their lives, and are in a perpetual state of disconnect.” At times, melody emerges; however, much of the sound resembles industrial noise.
The whole concert involved a small number of steps performed in countless variations. In one section, Gibson, Jessica Warchal-King, and Eiren Shuman skillfully and meticulously manipulate sequencing and spacing, aligning in rare moments of unison. Due to their expressionless faces and the task-like repetition, this trio is both visually mesmerizing and difficult to bear. It is Gibson’s design of space that enlivens the composition; moments of explosive spatial shift punctuate the repetition. Moreover, the careful attention to negative space constructs narrative undertones despite the mechanical nature of the piece. The lighting, designed by Clifford Greer, acts as a fourth dancer, adding dimension to the space and exposing the sterile relationships between the dancers in sudden instances like the flash of a camera.
Jeffrey Gunshol, dressed in a suit and tie, performs a solo that deconstructs the already established movements. His arms float wide overhead only to gather in toward his center again like broken wings. He moves with remarkable subtlety and grace, yet maintains a stoic expression.
The dance ends with a surprisingly touching duet, which Gibson actually choreographed first in her process. This duet would not be read as intimate in the least if it were not for the previously well-established state of disconnect. Gibson and Gunshol seem to walk a tightrope act together, searching for each other’s kinespheres. Although the physical contact between the two is minimal and distal, it is striking given its context.
Toward the end, Gunshol hangs up his suit jacket as if to express vulnerability. Much of the work, because it is stern in structure, lacks this vulnerability. It is a relief to connect with the dancers as people not just as visual design. Perhaps this is precisely Gibson’s point. Through consistency in the development of the piece, the work ultimately comments on how we measure success and fulfillment.
***Photo by Bill Hebert (BHPhotos.net)