I don’t watch a lot of dance performances but conviction in my own opinions will inspire even the most uninformed post on this site. Also, I really enjoyed Chez Bushwick’s The Invention of Minus One, so I figure it at least warrants mention, even if its abstraction makes it a little difficult for those not in the field to describe. Imagine a Christian Marclay sound track built upon scratches, escalating humming sounds, repeating thuds, electronic blips and bleeps, the high pitch click of the camera shutter, add three dancers (Jonah Bokaer, Jean Freebury, and Banu Ogan), Isaac Mizrahi’s 18th century inspired jackets with silver tights, and a video design by Michael Cole and you’re looking at the performance I saw Friday night.
If there’s a specific meaning to be gleaned from this piece though you’ll likely have some trouble figuring it out, even with a fair bit of experience in the arts. The press release speaks of the “erasure of the moving body, and the trace of its presence” through state of the art digital choreographic software, an objective I can’t help but think they missed due to the fact that the motion capture appearing on the umbrella backdrop screen was washed out to the point of being unclear. I didn’t notice too much in the way of physical absence either, but there were a number of death like poses taken, and dancers did move off the stage from time to time.
Rather than trying to figure out the ways The Invention of Minus One, may or may not have achieved its desired goals though, I’d rather spend the time reflecting on all the aspects of the performance I did like. As it turns out, I respond quite positively to triangles. The shape appeared in form of tripods, the shifting arrangement of the three video cameras, and even a game of penny triangle, each time creating the perimeters within which movement would occur. It is also a shape that immediately collapses when one point is removed, which may explain the focus on the form.
As for the precision of movement, and which performers this work builds upon, you’ll need to seek out an actual dance expert for that. For what it’s worth however, projection not withstanding, the other elements in the show seemed largely in place; the body movements unexpected and the use props fantastic. After all, while three umbrellas were used on stage, the show never deteriorated into an umbrella twirling fest. If the collaborative achieved nothing else, it should certainly serve as an example to the would be umbrella prop community that there are more ways to use the thing than Busby Berkeley envisioned for us.