Dance Review: 'David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group: Restless Eye'

at New York Live Arts

Reviewed by Lisa Jo Sagolla

March 26, 2012


Photo by Ian Douglas
Taking in an experimental dance performance is much more demanding than it used to be. Choreographers are conceding their role as master communicators of ideas of their own discovery and construction, and the responsibility for making meaning has shifted to the audience.

Back in the day, established choreographers on New York’s downtown dance scene would present a full evening of work, typically four or five distinct pieces that, while they may have been of a particular aesthetic, explored a variety of tones, concepts, or choreographic characteristics. But today the sign of stature among choreographers seems to be a performance that consists solely of an “evening-length” work. And I use the quotation marks intentionally, as the term in the contemporary dance world refers not to a two-hour narrative dance (as it might at the ballet) but to what is frequently a work of an hour or less in duration. (Ticket prices for such performances, however, remain equivalent to that of a full evening production.)

Not only are audiences getting less quantitatively, but we are expected to assume a central role in creating meaning out of what is presented onstage. Rather than an expertly crafted piece of theatricalized, stylized, or even pedestrian physical movement that teaches us something new or different about ourselves and our world, we are presented with postmodern mishmashes of images, sounds, and whatnot, out of which we must assemble something of significance. And this assembling is heavy-lifting. It’s different from the personal interpretation that viewers of art have always engaged in with natural ease.

In the contemporary-dance value system, clarity of expression has been replaced by the presentation of an array of stimuli that are simply of some interest to the choreographer. Performances involve us watching the artist “play with his toys” while we draw from the experience whatever we choose.

In “Restless Eye,” a new, nerdy 60-minute work by David Neumann, we see the five members of his company, only two of whom can technically dance, perform intermittent sequences of purposely disjointed movement phrases. We try to watch the videos projected on the back wall of set designer Gordon Landenberger’s gazebo-like structure (possibly a reference to the piece’s Chekhovian stage directions and tableaux), but the door frame and lower wall obstruct most of our view. The performers sometimes wear NeuroSky MindWave headsets that allow them to control changes in Christine Shallenberg’s lighting via their brainwaves. (Don’t ask; I have no idea.) At other times they speak into microphones, telling descriptive anecdotes about places. There are also audio recordings of lunar astronauts from the 1960s.

Presented by and at New York Live Arts, 219 W. 19th St., NYC. March 24–April 1. Tues.–Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. (212) 924-0077 or www.newyorklivearts.org.
 

 
Subscribe to Back Stage

More Cabaret dance

ADVERTISEMENT

Unscripted Blog


Visit Unscripted »

Sponsors

Back Stage Video

Duncan Stewart, director of casting at National Artists Management Company, talks about opening every submission and what he wants to see in a headshot.; casting; Duncan Stewart; headshot; new york city; open submissions; Duncan Steward, director of casting, talks about what he wants from an actor in a general meeting, mainly truth, likability, and lack of ego.; advice; casting; Duncan Stewart; new york city; tips; Duncan Stewart, director of casting, talks about what he expects from an audition and common mistakes actors make.; advice; auditions; casting; Duncan Stewart; new york city; Alaine Alldaffer breaks down the real role of a casting direcor.; Alaine Alldaffer; casting; casting director; Grey Gardens; play; stage; theater; Casting director Alaine Alldaffer talks about casting "Saved" and all the misconceptions about being an actor in New York City.; Alaine Alldaffer; casting director; NYC theatre; play; saved; NY casting director Bernie Telsey describes what actors need to know before walking into an audition. (Part 1 of 2) ; Bernie Telsey; casting director; We spoke with casting director Mark Teschner about working on soap operas. (Part 1 of 3) ; General Hospital; Mark Teschner; soap opera; NY casting director Bernie Telsey describes how to give your best audition. (Part 2 of 2) ; Bernie Telsey; casting director; We spoke with casting director Mark Teschner about working on soap operas. Need only beautiful people apply? (Part 2 of 3) ; General Hospital; Mark Teshner; soap opera; We spoke with casting director Mark Teschner about auditioning for soap operas. (Part 3 of 3) ; General Hospital; Mark Teschner; soap opera; Videos for the Back Stage News & Features section.

ADVERTISEMENT