Review: Nicole Bindler and group in Blood, Sea

by Jane Fries for The Dance Journal

Choreographer Nicole Bindler and a group of 14 collaborators presented an improvised dance, Blood, Sea, at the Performance Garage last Saturday night. Bindler is a practitioner of somatics (a discipline which focuses on dancers’ internal physical experiences) – thus it’s fitting that Blood, Sea is inspired by the idea that our blood “has a chemical composition analogous to that of the sea of our origin,” and “as we evolved into terrestrial beings, we brought the sea inside of us onto land.”

The dancers are already on stage as the audience enters the theater. Shaking, bouncing, pumping, and wiggling, they seem to be overtaken by a mysterious physiological process, and they’re sweating before the lights dim and the performance officially starts. In the opening section, they form a line and become still. The line folds and unfolds, and the group sways as a whole. They slowly peel off and spread across the stage. Some hold one hand over their eyes and the other hand out-stretched as they take cautious, blind steps.

As the piece progresses, the dancers rush around and chatter compulsively. Their cacophony joins with the soundscape emanating from composer Julius Masri, who constantly adjusts a warm, buzzing hum from a corner of the stage. At one point, he walks diagonally across the stage shaking a pair of maracas, and later he pops up center stage playing a drum. The dancers contribute a variety of vocalizations throughout the piece too, ranging from tuneful moans to conversational snippets.

A group assembles in an upstage corner, and they play cards, chat, and drink wine from paper cups. Meanwhile, the remaining performers come and go across the stage continuously, as if propelled by strange, compulsive forces. The card-playing partiers seem to represent one layer of reality, while complex biological processes take place deep beneath the surface.

Because the movement is improvised, the goings-on have a living, breathing quality that is difficult to achieve when the choreography is laid out step-by-step. The performers in Blood, Sea succeed in creating an organic impression of thematic unity – no small feat for such a large group working together.

For the dance viewer, the uncertainty about what’s going to happen next that comes with watching an improvisational piece can be intriguing, and for the most part Blood, Sea held interest. At about 45 minutes, one of the dancers did a slow somersault and disappeared off the back of the stage. That felt like a good moment for the piece to end, but it continued for another twenty minutes. A little less could have been more alluring.

Comprising a diverse group, the performers wore a mix of street and dance practice clothes in shades of blacks, blues, grays, and greens. They included Miryam Coppersmith, Derek Freeh, JD Frost, Christina Gesualdi, Greg Holt, Kimya Imani Jackson, Christine Mantey, Talia Mason, Janna Meiring, Jonathan Stein, Margot Electra Steinberg, Harlee Trautman, Pablo Virgo, and Elizabeth Weinstein.

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