"Repair" & " Plum House (A Cartoon)"
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY
February 20-24, 2007
by Lisa Rinehart
copyright ©2007, Lisa Rinehart
There's no doubt that Vicki Schick is a wondrous dancer, but at the risk of offending the entire modern dance community, there is some doubt as to her range as a choreographer. Her visually appealing "Repair," and "Plum House (A Cartoon)," are frustratingly vague musings on femininity and sisterhood that would evaporate into irrelevance if not for Barbara Kilpatrick's succinct sets and costumes, Elise Kermani's compelling soundscapes and uniformly expert performances by Schick, Laurel Dugan, Diane Madden, Juliette Mapp, Perrine Ploneis, Derry Swan, and the always fascinating Jodi Melnick. Schick is well respected and much loved in the downtown dance scene, but after twenty years of creating her own work, such colleagueship may not have benefited her evolution as a dance maker.
This is a sticky idea. It suggests that an artist must encounter difficulty in order to create good work. You know, the suffering artist thing. But sometimes the difficulty is less obvious than starving in a garrett; sometimes it can be as subtle as the challenge to develop a point of view. Buoyed by the unconditional support of fellow artists, Schick seems seduced by the limitless possibilities of process. Why edit an idea if every idea is valid? Why develop a movement if the experience of invention is enough? Schick admits in an interview with DTW's Artistic Director, Carla Peterson, that movement invention "is not her prime interest or goal," and that revealing narrative isn't particularly exciting to her. She professes that it's "the utter humanity and vulnerability of dancers" that turns her on, and that she's "always searching for a logic" even if it's only perceptible by her. This might be acceptable of a lesser artist, but Schick is a thoughtful choreographer with interesting ideas, and her movement vocabulary, while limited, is engaging, so one longs for her to take the plunge and move from suggestion to statement.
Of course, dance is a language well suited to abstract explorations of space, geometry or mood, and trenchant meaning isn't required for effectiveness, but specificity of purpose gives a dance it's power. In "Repair," Schick touches on the tantalizing, but never lingers. Melnick, exuding a sensual primness in a stiff black dress, moves from louche slouching to a frenetic straightening of the dress. Self-loathing? Perhaps. Repression of the feminine? Maybe. We'll never know. Schick moves on to Melnick quivering with pleasure in a neon-lit skirt, suffering the indignity of having the interior of her mouth examined, and then, strangely, launching into a edited mad scene from "Giselle" as Schick turns away. Melnick looks great doing all of this, but is it a metaphor for girlish innocence destroyed? Could be. Or maybe it's just a string of loosely connected ideas pieced together from copious hours of studio time.
"Plum House (A Cartoon)" is more of the same. Kilpatrick's set evokes a lonely farmhouse on some windswept plain, and snippets of Piaf and Deitrich give Kermani's sound design a nostalgic air. Dugan, Madden, Mapp, Ploneis and Swan plump Schick's material with the depth of their own personalities, but only so much can be done with a communally smoked cigarette and an exchange of leggings (two particularly inscrutable moments). The women scurry in and out of their tiny house with the purposeful confusion of ants after the anthill's been kicked open, but I'm not convinced that even Schick can perceive the logic of the activity. I certainly can't — which is distressing, because I'd like to know what the dedicated and accomplished Schick is thinking.
Photos (both by Julieta Cervantes)
Top: Repair1 - Vicky Shick, Jodi Melnick
Repair2 - Vicky Shick, Jodi Melnick
Volume 5, No. 9
March 5, 2007
copyright ©2007 by Lisa Rinehart