Transitions

three different ways of getting from one place to another.

Doug Varone.

In my beginning is my end.

T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

Dance is not just bodies moving through space; it is also about bodies moving through time. To move through time is to confront the question of transitions. From one thing to the next we go. But how we do so can vary greatly. In works from the last few years, three choreographers—Doug Varone, Liz Gerring, and Pam Tanowitz—offer three very different temporal modes of dance.

In his pieces performed in 2018 at the Dance Center of Columbia College, Doug Varone tried not to have any transitions at all. There is flow in the pieces that constitute the in the shelter of the fold series. They unfold. They fold back up. You never see the creases. The dance gradually transmogrifies so that suddenly one has moved with the dancers from one state to another, but how did we get here from there? There is no transition discrete from the ongoing transition.

Doug Varone and Dancers.

By contrast, Liz Gerring often asks her dancers to pursue virtuoso but awkward moments of jerky leaps, skips, and jumps. In pieces such as Horizon and (T)here to (T)here, dancers work up to…interrupting themselves. Not unlike Merce Cunningham’s aesthetic, the choreography is staggering. The goal seems to be to linger in the gap, the synapse, with the electrical surge. Can one live in a transition? No, one must leave it, abandon it, reenter it again, for the transition to become visible, to even exist.

Liz Gerring Dance Company.

In Pam Tanowitz’s choreographic take on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, the dancers seem to get stuck in little repetitions rather than transitions. Their legs swing back and forth, an arm windmills and windmills again, a dancer runs forward at full speed only to retreat again. Time seems to hang in the balance. Maybe civilization itself does too. That’s what T.S. Eliot seems to think. “The end is the beginning,” but “what we call the beginning is often the end.”

We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot
Pam Tanowitz.

These three choreographers investigate time’s inner mechanisms to see what can be done about moving from one moment to the next. As we follow their transitions, they are doing far more than just going through the motions.

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