“6, A, A, A, A, A, B, 3, D2, C, 9,” a voice called out.
Upon walking into the New York Live Arts intimate theater, dancers could be seen warming up across the stage floor, prompted by a series of numbers and letters. Heightened by the silence of the audience, the sounds of their stomps, slides, jumps, and turns were sharply audible.
This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, at New York Live Arts, Barnard/Columbia Dances took the stage downtown with three distinct performances, including “Again? What Now?,” choreographed by the current Lida A. Orzeck ’68 Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at Barnard College, Yvonne Rainer; “Walk Good ‘Lady’” by Davalois Fearon; and “Carrugi” by Doug Varone.
“Yvonne Rainer is a dance icon, so having her here was absolutely amazing. She’s like the epitome of post-modern dance, so having her at Barnard was … super exciting,” Bri Vigorito, BC ’22, who performed in “Carrugi,” said. “‘Again? What Now?’ has different excerpts … from different work she’s created and also if you look in the program, there’s also inspiration from other dancers and things like that placed in the piece.”
After the warm-up, the show formally started with Rainer’s, “Again, What Now?” with dancers wearing neutral baggy pants, simple half-sleeves or tank top shirts, and sneakers to emphasize the casual nature of their movements. The piece infused spoken word and emotion with a mixture of songs, during which dancers would integrate dialogue into the periods of silence. Additionally, the performers used white pillows and metal chairs as props throughout.
Following a brief intermission, the lights dimmed and “Walk Good ‘Lady’” began. Dancers wore white shirts and tights, with black stains covering the majority of their clothing; silver streaks highlighted their foreheads and lips.
“[This] was a largely improv-based piece, so a lot of the times the dancers were generating their own movement that was supported by Dava[lois],” Vigorito said. “Something that [the dancers] were really excited about was making eye contact with the audience the whole time and they said a lot of them have never done that before, really, personally, which was a really cool experience.”
Dancers began murmuring sayings like, “you’re such a show-off,” and “I don’t know,” continuously getting louder and more chaotic. Their movements were synced with their yelling and the noise of a timer ticking. The piece ended with dancers on the floor, harmoniously humming while hugging a partner. Even as the lights dimmed, their vibrant white costumes and humming could still be seen and heard.
“I like the incorporations of the performers’ voices into it. I think that’s really cool, especially [“Walk Good ‘Lady’”], I feel like it’s really relatable to women my age specifically,” audience member Ravelle Dundon, BC ’22, said.
The third and final dance, “Carrugi,” was more technical, showing off each member’s talents. Dancers were clothed in neutral, light garments, and they continued to make eye contact with the audience throughout the piece. Unlike the previous two pieces, dancers’ movements were completely synced with Mozart music and shifting orange and white lighting.
“[Varone] kind of drew on making sure that personal relationships are seen throughout the piece. There’s not a specific storyline, but an audience member could perceive those relationships on stage and I think Doug talked [a lot about] placing a piece of humanity on stage through the dance,” Vigorito said. “Something that we really talked about was the relationships between dancers on stage.”
“Carrugi” incorporated group dances, solos, duets, and trios throughout the performance. Dancers often had spotlights directly on them, allowing their talent to shine through the fog that pervaded the stage.
“Something that was really unique about the Varone [piece] is that all of the [Doug Varone and Dancers] company members came. There [were] different company members each week and they actually taught us one on one. So, every dancer was taught personally by the company members and we would learn each piece of our choreography alone and then set it all together as a group,” Vigorito said.
As dancers walked forward on the stage to take their final bow, their eyes never lost contact with the audience. Even after the dancers ran off and the lights dimmed, their energy remained present.