Dancers in "We Are Weather" by Vanessa Anspaugh. Photo Credit: Michael Hart.

I recently saw a contemporary dance performance in St. Mark’s Church-In-The-Bowery.  There were two parts; the first called “I’m Not Coming Back“.

The lights went out, making the scene ominous.  A little girl was revealed to be crouching in the middle of the floor when the spotlight illuminated her.

The music came on, surreal and mechanical and clockwork sounding; it sounded steampunk.  It was slightly disturbing, but not unpleasant.  The other five dancers came out when the music started, shaking their heads and limbs, walking forward with the music, with their eyes closed.

The dancing itself was very interesting. It seemed to be telling a very symbolic story, interpreted widely differently by each person, though it was unclear.  The adult dancers moved, sprang, rolled, dragged themselves, and staggered across the stage, chasing the little girl but never catching her.  At one point their ‘cogs and wheels’ (I did say it looked like they were clockwork) started to wear down and they gradually lost power; they lay on the ground, quivering, and when the girl touched them, they stopped moving.

I thought it was like physical modern art expressed through body movement.  The dancing wasn’t like traditional, or even popular, modern dancing.  It hardly seemed to be dance.  More like acted out art with music.

By the intermission, my idea of what dance was completely blown; revolutionized; changed.  After the intermission, three women came on stage (this part was called “We Are Weather“), one lying down, and the other two appeared to be fighting each other and dropping down dead over and over again. This part had a lot less music, just the occasional percussion music.  It was a lot more gymnastic, with a lot of yoga-like poses.  They used a light bulb; when it was turned on and off, it represented something (lightning?) and affected how the women danced whether it was on or off.  It was also wilder, but not in the crude sense.

I noticed that while the first part seemed to be decreasing in life force (like robots losing power), the second part seemed to me like they were gaining in power as the show went on.  I didn’t think of the performance as dance, I thought of it, and contemplated it, and appreciated it, like a very interesting, deep, surreal painting.

This, too, is dance, after all.