Monday, September 20, 2010


Conceived and directed by: Carrie Ahern. Choreographed by Carrie Ahern in collaboration with the performers: Carrie Ahern, Donna Costello, David Figueroa, Kelly Hayes, Jillian Hollis. Music composed and performed live by: Anne Hege. Costumes: Naoko Nagata. Lighting Design: Jay Ryan

The Vault is a dark, sonically resonant, concrete world in the basement of a former bank building on Wall St. When the doors open, entering a dark hallway and wondering what I will encounter in this 3 hour gallery exhibition style performance, Anne Hege's ghostly voice enters my ears. It is filtered electronically, the pitch twisting, a lone layer over foreboding rumbling hums, insinuating an underworld.

I pass a cage decorated with Xmas lights, then the room where the sound is originating. I will come back to it, but I want to look around. After all, this is styled after an exhibition and I expect things to be happening in more than one place. I pass stacked televisions screening static and facing a beam that is mere inches away, a quick flickering strobe illuminated room filled with bags of paper, abandoned space dotted with occasional colored florescent lights giving a seedy underground feel. Finding no other action, I follow the voice back to a bright room walled with abandoned safety deposit lockers, where Hege is singing into a high table of neatly assorted gadgets, and a single dancer moves slowly. Each movement grows from a breath, a slight undulation, reach twisting to nowhere. Her bare belly is soft, ready to be moved by breath. It is the kind of body I have come to expect from dancer trained in release based techniques, trainings that allow for easing into extreme ranges of motion, and efficient maneuvering from floor to air and back. Realizing, after a few minutes, that this movement will go to none of the spectacular extremes of release based dance, I check my disappointment and wander out of the room.

I come upon a stairway and descend into an even lower level where I discover illuminated platforms and ramps dressed sculpturally in plastic sheeting. Some of them are inhabited by performers, and others stages to be in this 3 hour anti-spectacle. A man traces the perimeter of a tiny light box with his hands and feet, moving within it's confines as though he is walled in. I stand very close to him, watch, feel the confinement coming off his skin. He manages, to retreat on this box no bigger than a square foot and a half, making it apparent that my presence is compounding his confinement. Behind me, a woman is on top of a ramp, rigidly delineating the shape of a tiny imaginary box on the ceiling, and moving it from one spot to another. Both performers are slavishly obsessed with and confined by the box. Now aware of a connection between these two isolated figures, I begin to yearn for more basic human connections.

When the performers touch, it is stilted and devoid of emotion. There is an embrace in which the box couple seem to get stuck leaning in, holding each other's arms, the deepest intimacy an unseen whisper that never reaches the receiver's ear. In another embrace the original performer from upstairs is being held by the hips while her arms and torso reach away toward some unseen lure. The most palpable touch moment for me is a long gaze a woman locks into with me. She holds it for a long time with no readable expression in her face. Her body is still. I leave the gaze, survey her body, return. She is still there, looking dead into my eyes, expressing nothing. The direct eerie stir of the moment is enough to justify my attendance. Other touches include lifts, rotations, and setting down of bodies in strange inverted positions, all done deftly and coldly with no eye contact between performers.

SeNSATE invites the viewer rove through it's world, to get up close to the performers, sense the urgency of their experience, and yet it is decidedly anti-intimate, with an occasional fleeting shadow of pain or sadness casting itself over a performer's face and dissolving into inescapable blank. The dancing, for the sake of dancing, is not spectacular, but within the performance is a deep commitment, enslavement to something just beyond what the viewer can see. The paradox creates a space for SeNSATE to creep in and fill the mind.
when/where/how much