Live Arts Review – Brian Sanders’ JUNKSep 17th, 2012 | By Kat Richter | Category: What Kat Saw
by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal
Photo credit: JJ Tiziou
September 15, 2012
Staring up at the huge metal structure that comprises the stage, set and focal point of Brian Sanders’ newest creation, The Gate Reopened, there was a brief moment when I thought I was in the primate section at the Philadelphia Zoo. Stretched between the chain link octagon were poles and ladders, pulleys and chains—even a wooden swing of sorts—but as the pulsing techno-meets-didgeridoo began, I remembered that I was at Pier 9, just across the street from the soon-to-be headquarters of the Fringe/Live Arts Festival on Columbus Boulevard, and I quickly realized that the eight dancers of Brian Sanders’ JUNK could give even the most agile of chimps a run for their money.
It’s no surprise that the local choreographer got his start with MOMIX. When dancer Jerrica Blankenship stood atop a glowing white ball in the middle of the “gate” and arched her back, supported at the knees by the counterweight of another dancer, I thought “Where have I seen this before?” Right. At the Annenberg last spring when MOMIX came to town.
Sanders’ dancers, however, are stripped down. They’re no frills, and even at times no clothes, aside from the black thongs they wear as the hour-long performance winds down to its final tableau leaving the eight dancers suspended, carcass-like, from thick black cords. But let’s start at the beginning.
The Gate Reopened is performed in the round and the dancers burst from the back of the dark warehouse as if by magic. They circle the enormous metal gate (which is really more of a cage if you asked me) and make their way up to the platform one by one, sometimes springing, sometimes floating. They drop to their knees like marionettes then they spring from the wall like kids on a playground, except they’re wearing harness and dressed all in black.
Three z-shaped ladders flank the gate and three male dancers climb up and through their rungs. A fourth climbs to the top of the structure with a miniature axle attached to his waist. He affixes its wheels to two parallel bars suspended high above the ground and spins, head over heels as he bounces from one end of the cage to the other.
Next, Blankenship and dancer Shelby Joyce take hold of a ladder suspended from two chains. The take turns soaring up into the air and landing just as effortlessly, but their seesaw act soon turns into an erotic Ferris wheel as both dancers—who just happen to be topless— set the ladder spinning end over end.
The flailing hair, naked breasts and exposed butts all seemed a bit superfluous, especially when coupled with a steady stream of water raining down from the top of the gate, but the dancers’ athleticism and control were nothing short of amazing. (Clearly they’re doing something right over at UArts.)
Sanders’ choreography was inventive and seemed to leave no idea un-thought, whether it was about how to hang a dancer from a chain link fence (add metal hooks to his sneakers) or how to survive a fifteen foot drop (use a trampoline). His dancers brought the grungy post-apocalyptic playground scene to life with fearlessness and poise and it’s no wonder that Junk remains a sold-out staple of the Live Arts Festival.
Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist. Her work can be found at www.katrichter.com.