Quiet To Departure
nytheatre.com review by Heather Lee Rogers
July 13, 2010
You have to have a lot of patience for slow moving, repetitive, artistic elements to enjoy Quiet to Departure. This show combines Butoh dance, video, and original music and is premiering at P.S. 122's undergroundzero festival. The work of the performers is intense and carried out with great skill, but the show is not for everyone.
Quiet to Departure is performed by Leigh Evans (the show's choreographer) and Megan Nicely. Both women wear gothic white lacy dresses, that cut off around the knee; they look strange, interesting, and evocative of Miss Havisham in her bridal gown (designed by Tiziana Agnello). The set consists of a large white square panel onto which video is projected. This seemingly solid panel also breaks apart into vertical blinds, which are lit in beautiful ways when they are opened. The black and white videos feature mostly moving clouds or a woman's naked back moving very slowly across the reflection of an oval mirror... or sometimes moving very slowly across several oval mirrors. Sometimes, for variety, the mirrors are in front of a backdrop of moving clouds. The show features original music by Peter Whitehead which is very simple, new-age-sounding, slow, and repetitive. Alternating with the film images is the live dance/movement articulated with stunning physical exactitude by Evans and Nicely.
In the first segment, after several minutes of video footage, the image on the screen becomes still and Evans's body, which has been stretched out on the stage floor (like a dead Victorian doll) begins to move. I thought it looked like it was trying to levitate, actually, mesmerized by the slow and extreme effort with which the body tried to lift itself off the ground. It was truly weird and very interesting. Then the effort would fail, the body would drop back to the floor and then, after some time, would try to lift again. And again. Very slowly and painfully each time.
While watching the show, I really wanted more dynamic interaction between the dance and the video elements. An image would be in motion on the video when either the stage was bare or the performers held their bodies frozen. Then the video image would either freeze or disappear when the performers moved. I wanted to see the film and performers dance together, instead of taking turns.
Much of the show is Evans and Nicely moving together. They move in near-absurdly-exact unison (like very slow-motion walking behind a striping of half-open blinds, back and forth to very slow music for a long time). They also sometimes move in complementary opposition (like falling from very slow-motion into a lurching halt at opposite grotesque angles then very slowly over minutes, pulling themselves back to standing erect before repeating the sequence to very slow music for another long time). The movement seems to be in a constant dialogue with the idea of duration. The performers do not speak and wear their faces in an almost expressionless vulnerability. They are both fully engaged, intense, and wholly committed to each movement. Every physical moment has integrity. The final movement/image is beautiful and will stay with me a long time. But for most of the short performance, I struggled to stay engaged with it.
So while the performance is executed with an awesome amount of skill and art, I think the enjoyment of it is largely a matter of taste. Unfortunately this was just too slow and repetitive for mine.