REVIEW: A world premiere by Miguel Gutierrez seems to balance between calm and chaos, ceremony and disorder.
You might walk away from "And lose the name of action" wondering about what just transpired on the Walker Art Center stage. This world premiere from New York's Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People yields little in the way of resolution. It delves into mysticism, neuroscience, logic and nonsense, subtly shifting perceptions while constructing layers of experience. Sometimes the organic connections between the surreal and cerebral thrill, but just as often they are buried in a clutter of ideas.
What resonates in the work, which opened on Wednesday night, is its balancing act between calm and chaos, ceremony and disorder, the lines blurring between one realm and another, prodded on by the hypnotic, often elliptical words of Boru O'Brien O'Connell. The fearless performers -- Michelle Boulé, Hilary Clark, Luke George, K.J. Holmes, Ishmael Houston-Jones and Gutierrez -- even enlist the audience, seated onstage, into a soul-stirring, song-fueled ritual.
The dancing has a possessed quality, a torque and twist punctuated by moments of deliberation and quiet, propelled by Neal Medlyn's otherworldly score. Gutierrez, who brings a singular spontaneity to his own movement, cultivates every idiosyncrasy in his dancers. Boulé shudders and careens with animal-like immediacy through the space, for example, while Holmes floats above the fray, radiating serenity. Sometimes the physical imagery looks as if it was drawn from Victorian-era paintings of supernatural beings or, on occasion, a Fellini film, all thoughtfully lit by Lenore Doxsee.
But as "And lose the name of action" unfolds it becomes clear that its bounds are bursting. The restless experimentation is bold but illumination only comes sparingly from the content. What begins promisingly as fleshed-out concepts about the mysteries of living start to sag toward the end, especially when the performers embark on a tedious set of arguments aimed at destroying seemingly settled notions explaining our relationship to the senses.
The kinetic commotion that ensues is far more interesting, perhaps because each dancer is so adept at blending choreographic direction with improvisation, digging deep to reveal genuine absurdity and naked truth. This is where the work reveals its purest and most enduring power, in the ability to transform reality for everyone -- whether performer or viewer -- at the same moment.
Caroline Palmer writes regularly about dance.