Way In

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Rashaun Mitchell, Claudia La Rocco, Silas Riener and Davison Scandrett in “Way In,” a site-specific performance at Danspace Project by Mitchell and Riener, in collaboration with La Rocco and Scandrett. Photo: Paula Lobo.

the athlete is off center

The arms make an infinity.

They stand very still, wrapped around each other’s slender, muscled torsos; emotional chicken, who will leave first. His head rests, face scrunched into the other’s broader shoulder. Feet touch. Stillness. No. Almost imperceptible energies buffet them; the lovers parting but not yet. The universe of two alone in the crowd.

This decrease stretches

there is always the suggestion of the erotic, and eventually they are topless on the floor, spilling onto and over each other — what might have been intimate seems staged, conventionally, for a voyeur’s pleasure

Feet parallel, hinged at the waist. Hands find hips, head and shoulders rock back and forth, the rib cage sucks in, bells out. Muscles articulate.

The arms reach out and vector. The torsos angle and shift. We see the skeleton.

a banked, almost frantic sadness.

Fingers now like the sun’s slanting, pronged shafts

myriad variations on the good old crotch shot

The unitard as reference

fabulously relentless: one big louche exercise in mannerisms

Now they sit, weight over one hip, staring out into the same empty space we stare out into.  Now they melt, stretch

going straight up to midnight and beyond.

The one rises on his insane feet; the feet which he did nothing in advance to earn.

Notice that you do not notice his arms

They cycle through repetitive, angled movements, their faces held in stony affect.

Strict spatial patterns break into something muddier, more ambiguous 

The legs go, and everything else stays the same

he skulks to and fro. Presents to us his head for inspection

restless eddies

(Big musical showstopper? Big deal.)

He does not give us his eyes

fiendish phrases stumble to confused halts

stylized climaxes, their entwined limbs alternately thrusting and splaying

all of the various complexities and particularities smoothed out to create one vague patina

It isn’t a dance about anything, even itself. It just is, until it isn’t.

The multiplied image of fragile supporting legs, shaking with the tremendous effort of maintaining that line. The cost is glorious, and high.

Bodies made for va-va-vooming

The feet maintain their maniacal arches. The eyes stare out, as if to say, I decide when I come down

flings a hand against an already outflung hip

absurdly strangled bursts.

These lush, often cruel observations on love are mirrored but not mimed

the dancers attached at first at the waist by a silver rope. 

a sense of heightened sameness creeps in

Even when this chain falls, they remain locked in a tumultuous world of grappling embraces, jackhammer leaps and deft recalibrations

a fluid physical navigation

They are exalted: breathless, grinning, somehow getting through the dance’s punishing ladder of steps and balances.

Things get muddy, as in crowded, not complicated.

the layers of deeply personal autobiography and delicate formal structure at play between them are already enough

bodies have something very specific and strange to say to and for and with each other

fiercely liquid

they hurl themselves through space, legs buckling, joints smacking the floor, torsos unfurling like ribbons in the wind. They seem boneless at times, their bodies collapsing into dense scrums, then scattering

a physical overdose coming hard on the heels of a

handsome                  creamy                       lusciously

swiveling between

swoops low and the floor rises up

keep going till this mythical future comes

deliberately heavy, pedestrian strides.

a charged, sultry brew

bare back to us, shuddering and heaving

It is irresistible, actually physically difficult to resist.

Two trained dancers and two untrained ones walk onto a stage: a variation on the “walked into a bar” joke

The body wants to burrow into it, but the mind is stopped, or at least given pause,

you ping-pong back and forth, until you are pressed up against

Your implants are perfect

Form pushed to its extreme, full of meaning as a result

They skitter and slink, sometimes sliding through elegant, indeterminate gestures and phrases, sometimes trying out power moves, sometimes undulating their bodies with frank eroticism.

what  lingers in the mind’s eye after is the raw grappling with the intractable present, in all its painful, brutal, live-wire intensity.

Do you abandon your tradition?

They are engulfed in, and hindered by, these fantastical coats, which are both rich and cheap, playing with the work’s themes of empty promises of change

It is easy to be carried along by this masterly flow of painterly shapes and lines, of macro patterns constantly in flux. But the details inevitably snag the eye

dazzlingly quicksilver

tear about the stage in endless patterns  

arranged marriages

Is there anything more fickle than an audience member?

dizzying and fluid

These are dancers’ tasks, but also human ones.

Teetering  on one raised foot, turning slowly like a weathervane as two attendants kneel around her

You wait for something to rupture, even while knowing it will not.

staging and simultaneous action thwart any attempt at comprehensive viewing.

hangs loose and utterly impenetrable

legs scissoring and arms spread aloft

That tension, between formal elements and a high wildness,

the chaotic continually threatening to spill out, run loose

their lips parted and eyes flaring as they execute spiraling, synchronized phrases, the curvilinear lines of their limbs balanced by the

your breath catching. The onslaught, both erotically charged and inexorable, seems as if it might stretch into eternity

what it is to be severe and unhinged at the same time, to push yourself, through repetition, into the unknown.

insulating a wildness at the work’s center

so inviting in its strangeness 

And would they let you follow, if only at a distance?

limbs licking and locking about one another in a physical game of chess

a dull straining after importance,

a terrific machine

captivating in their seeming aimlessness, they move through this landscape like lost children.


This is the thing you wanted, is it not?

This is the thing which they can do, which you cannot

Circling, circling

The black won’t rub off on you

If only you could decode their strange language of fluid shifts and deft gestures, you think, you would know everything about their lives. But this piece isn’t about everything; it’s about rupture, and the luminous, mournful shards that come after.

alone yet together, at times acknowledging the diptych nature of the journey by mirroring their movements — simple rituals of bowing, walking and balancing

The arm muscled. Now the monkey has his own planet—he hunches down. He gives you the animalistic you sought

treacherous lack of dependability,

as if it were a living thing, still to be negotiated and contested.

quick little blooms of movement catch at the stack

a measured, focused exploration of invisible forces and weights: Atlas not shrugging, but undulating

his limbs loosened, aware of something other than themselves, collapse into a bag of parts. The puzzle won’t be reconstituted

The bride on her wedding night waits with quiet eyes

The hand trails and arcs

Almost immediately you see this awareness of futility, of frustrated impotence.

Their bodies rocket forward and down in ungainly, fruitless trajectories. 

They don’t offer one another anything. 

When a full exchange finally comes, it is physically repulsive: 

This happens after many other things 

until he disappears into a white cloud. 

Then they sit in their ruined land, and spit.

The body in all its liquid smarts and dumbs

its restless eddies of movement pooling into too-familiar pockets.

long stretches in which loosely repetitive, perhaps even improvisational structures seem to dominate

They play with ways of being off balance and generally disoriented.

nature’s discontents, collapsing into themselves in ways both abstract and richly theatrical

stares out at us, aloof and implicated.

Push back, your bodies will geometry

How satisfying it is to see them enter the same creative houses, slipping in and out through their own side doors.

The memory of slow, authoritative trajectories through space

stamping, whirling processionals

too fast for language. or too slow

stands rigid, staring blankly, fingers twitching at sides

takes awkward hops past

one leg extended as if probing for contact with an unseen force.

raises hands in nervous little circles, muttering,

crouches low, a tide of energy roiling the torso.

Pose and then arch.

steely point work, vicious infighting

Try a painfully bent over airplane arabesque. Use the foot to promenade. Use the mouth. Make of your legs an enclosure.

flank the dancers like sentries

a portrait of gender far more fluid, fraught

Nope, sweetie, that didn’t work. He doesn’t want you hang onto him. Try something else; try an ice skating lift.

complicated marriages

like finely tuned mirror images of each other in a bisected area of the columned, wood-floor space

to be momentarily transfixed on a higher plane of experience.

heroic yet fragile

the legs are darkened below the knee, as though muddied by hard labor

(A recorded version of CLR reading this text  appeared in the opening section of Way In. All language cannibalized from CLR’s previous dance criticism, interspersed with notes generated during the creation process of Way In.)

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