“This marvelous space dedicated to dance and performance in Long Island City, Queens, has just purchased a permanent facility in the neighborhood, but for the time being its forward-thinking presentation will continue at its current home.” —Gia Kourlas, New York Times
Milka Djordjevich'S ANTHEM sneaks up, quite literally, on its audience. At the Chocolate Factory Theater, we the audience had taken our seats around a parquet dance floor when from a back hallway, four women appeared, step-touching toward us in conga-line formation. Their clothes seemed plucked from a 1970s closet: a gold velour jumpsuit for one dancer; suspendered pants for another; and for everyone, black jazz shoes. They took their time, as unrushed as the iridescent soundscape anointing their entrance.
An anthem has popped up in Queens — as rousing as one should be, but danced not sung. It feels like a rite of spring. Often in contemporary dance, the expressiveness of the body — and especially the face — is kept under wraps. Dancers stay in a neutral space of impassivity. But in her delightful new “Anthem,” the choreographer Milka Djordjevich presents an evening of dance that celebrates theatricality with a brazen, sensual and blessedly chaotic force.
A dark cloud, walks into a room. This is Melinda Ring’s working title from an earlier iteration of c lo u d. At a studio visit on July 30, 2016, she is wearing a white T-shirt from the Bureau for the Future of Choreography, with black lettering inside a Venn diagram: “life,” “death,” and “dance.” The T-shirt shares an odd resemblance to the work I’m about to see. Piles of paper blankets are nestled in the corner. View the PDF here.
Anna Sperber found riches in “Wealth from the Salt Seas.” Though not slavishly attached to watery images, her dance was filled with ebbs and flows: a mix of Sperber’s signature combination of control and abandon. What was especially satisfying was seeing her dance her own movement, inhabiting the welcoming stage of the Chocolate Factory in a not-entirely-solo performance filled with the ripples and shifts she has choreographed most recently on other dancers. Although most of the movement was hers, she did have a partner: the remarkable soprano Gelsey Bell, who moved across the stage to balance Sperber’s movement. Other times Bell would scrabble against the walls or up the platforms as she keened and moaned an eerie vocal score.
Sperber's enigmatic, repetitive actions bring attention to the margins of the space and gather stillness and silence there like a gift. You might notice the difference this makes and think: Have I ever looked at performance space--or a performance--in quite this way?