On Wednesday afternoon I got to attend a rehearsal for Wally Cardona’s new work “A Light Conversation” at the Joyce Soho. The space, which is usually set up with a distinct separation between stage and seating, was rearranged so that chairs circumscribed the stage on three sides, and only rose up one stair. The result: intimacy.
“A Light Conversation” is a tense pas de deux for Cardona and Rahel Vonmoos. The two share an energy of connectedness, as if their impulses were one. With backs facing each other they move in unison, feeling the other’s sense of space. Being so close, the audience can tap into that tension and become engaged in performance, whether their movement is vibrant or not. May because of the periodic silence, the lack of surrounding viewers, or the highly sensitive energy, I found myself holding my breath at times in fear of disturbing something.
Though the dancers themselves have this extraordinary hypnotic power to seduce, the piece as a whole was not as moving. Spoken interviews about Socrates and his views interspersed with dense silence provide the soundtrack to an odd movement language. Whether a philosophy buff or not, I’d bet an audience member would drown out the meaning of the words after a while as I did. In a brief discussion following the rehearsal, Cardona mentioned the challenge of finding the rhythms within spoken word as compared to music, specifically how the male voices were less melodious. He also explained the desire to determine which words were important for the audience to hear and which could be ignored by focusing on the movement.
This intention was illustrated when, at one point, a theory about Socrates is read. In a flash of light (literally), pounding drums and symbols override the speaking. The dancers run emphatically around the perimeter. Few words are decipherable above the din. It’s like a college kid blasting rock music to drown out his interior monologue of studying.
This distinct change from the blasé, quiet, slow themes prior to it gives the work the bang it needs, but it almost comes too late. I’d be interested to see how long a dance audience can hang on a philosophy lesson.
“A Light Conversation” plays at The Joyce Soho Sept. 30-Oct. 5. More info here. See Philip's review here and Tonya's review here.