FringeArts Review – Sanders’ lyrical daring in Hush

hush 4

by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal

Hanging off aluminum rails at the cavernous 23th St. Armory are billowy curtains and suspended lamps hanging low over mattresses on a huge sheet over the floor with a bed of sand underneath. It is the dreamscape of choreographer Brian Sanders’ acrobatic ballet new Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak. A soundscape of cars and sirens bleed in and the lullaby “Rain, rain, go away” fades in. Dancer Laura Jenkins walks around the perimeter her high heels amped on the floor, and hops into bed with Billy Robinson.  Everybody has their CK-skivvies on and the other dancers- Teddy Fatscher, Tommy Schimmel, Conner Senning and Miles Yueng- are paired in the other beds.

Sanders, known for high concept, but industrial acrobatic dance, shows how much daring there is to his more lyrical lexicon, those dare-devil signatures are laced into this touchingly unexpected acrobatic ballet and frank sexual imagery.  Men paired in bed and Jenkins joins in, but not in a sexual way at first, more like kids in their own private melancholy worlds.

The expression of childhood dreams and desires, with playful bedroom games becomes a template for sexual awakening, prurience, shame or guilt doesn’t intrude. The dancers bounce around or assume sex positions, but when they clutch each other, it is with childlike wonder and discovery.  In this scenario, when childhood blends into adulthood, mystery and wonder remain.

Dancers fling out of the beds a scale the curtains cocoon themselves in the cloth, then climb higher and then rip the cloth off its rungs and plunge, back down to the beds. This climbing and falling through air is   motif throughout. Jenkins gathers up the huge bed cover into an oceanic gown and suddenly she is 12 ft tall walking toward a dead oak tree and a bed of sand. Childhood is stripped away and it is time to journey forth.

The floor is now a sand bed where an oak tree stands and the dancers, now stripped down to dance-belts cluster and climb the oak. The bodyscapes and fleshy ensemble sculptures form as they do a group climb on the tree’s broken branches. They hang upside down like bats, move from a series of hanging ropes, swing to each one ala Tarzan.  The dancers execute strength move variations that you would otherwise only see on Olympic rings and with a higher degree of difficulty because these are choreographed moves not just feats.  The finale with unison tumbling is the simple and evocative finale and those steel strapped uber-high heels have the men scrambling around, cryptically the periphery.

The soundscape and adaptation of the nursery rhymes by Stephanie Sanders, hauntingly sung renditions of the maternal ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to the  nightmarish ‘Ring around the Rosie‘ with the plague lines .‘and we all fall down.‘  Sanders weave the songs in and out of an oceanic sound field and they lushly play on the visuals. The oak tree, designed by Sanders and artist Pedro Silva, from aluminum and cloth looks real until it becomes translucent. Hush’ lighting, set and sound designs, along with the performance level of these dancers, conjured Sanders’ at his most eloquent.

Photo credits:  Pedro Silva

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