A pleasant, but not very original combination of lights, music and choreography
By Joel Benjamin
Frantic Beauty, reduced to its basics, was just a not very imaginative light show combined with repetitive, not very inventive choreography. This “Project by Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya, featuring the LEIMAY Ensemble with original music by Jeff Beal” was pleasant to watch as the complex lights changed with the music, but ultimately just an agreeable way to spend an hour or so, despite the philosophical statements to the contrary in the program notes.
After a technical snafu necessitated a re-start, Frantic Beauty slowly appeared out of the darkness, the dancers (Masanori Asahara, Krystel Copper, Derek DiMartini, Omer Ephron and MarioGaleano) first visible as distorted leaping shadows cast against the backdrop by brightly focused light beams.
Thereafter the dancers moved within ever-changing light patterns, mostly slowly, sometimes crawling, sometimes striding, but rarely touching each other. A thick haze covered the stage—and most of the audience—adding a bit of mystery to the proceedings, but, again, just another clichéd bit of stagecraft.
The simple, pale one-piece costumes designed by Garnica and Irena Romendik allowed the lights to glint off them with clarity, sometimes hiding their human forms, sometimes enhancing their slim athletic bodies.
The dancers, while in motion, also added to Beal’s eerie, but varied soundtrack, with vocalizations which didn’t make much sense. Were these dancers to be taken as mere shapes or as a slow-moving, chaotic community in stress? Hard to tell.
The program notes state: “With this work, we reflect on beauty as a form and a force in the context of our frantic times.” The disconnect between the pretentious program notes and the lovely, often eye-pleasing staging makes Frantic Beauty a bit of a chore to watch until one just sits back and enjoys its visual and aural pleasures.
This type of presentation was done better and with more wit and beauty by Alwin Nikolais in the Fifties. Frantic Beauty, the program notes state, is the third part of a Pentalogy. Unfortunately, I have not seen the first two parts to see if this is a stand-alone exhibition of the creative powers of Garnica and Moriya or the way they approach all their dance/theater presentations.
Photos: Jeremy Tressler
Frantic Beauty (September 14-17, 2017)
BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)
321 Ashland Place
Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission