same planet different world, grey noise @ columbia college dance center, 10 march 2011.
In choreographer Joanna Rosenthal’s take on the gender dynamics of classic film noir, muscles seemed to be led by other parts of the body. Bones, sinews, and tendons did the propulsion. Or, sometimes, it seemed like some kind of string was pulling and yanking on the dancers, as if they were puppets, dummies, or, perhaps, real people helplessly trapped in cinematic archetypes, mere projections of selves instead of active agents. The dancing suggested that power might emanate from outside the self, applied from larger cultural forces to the body rather than coming from within.
Forgotten elements of the past—the violent, lurking past—are still with us, the dance suggested, even if they are in black and white or out of print. Bodies were sent corkscrewing down other bodies, twisted over themselves, ripped from the contemporary dance setting into the spoken soundtrack of a hard-boiled detective story. Bodies got lost in a descending swirl of bleak tragedy, trying to find their bearings in a world whose initial nostalgic air quickly gave way to a contemporary terror.
One was wrenched out of hip discernment into the violence that always lurks just below the surface of supposedly civilized modern life. Cells of celluloid whose bars were ripped asunder came off the reels. The anguish of cynical calculations led to an inevitable terminus, which was, given the film noir setting, perhaps a preordained conclusion of violent tragedy, one whose chalky outline of a dead body was barely covered by stylish retro garb.