"The Games We Play"-a MIX review by: Nadia Oka

I had the opportunity to witness the multiverse of vîv dance collective who are presenting an evening of three different works from choreographers Rosemary Hannon, Katie Faulkner and Ashley Trottier.

Sam Stone (viv member) inside an exposed moment during tech rehearsals  

Sam Stone (viv member) inside an exposed moment during tech rehearsals  

It was hard to contain my glee as I witnessed this group of five women with their wit, charm and energy. Rosemary Hannnon's piece, "Never the Same Twice," opened the show with a trio (Virgina Broyles, Odessa Avianna Perez, Sam Stone) in black glittery Vegas tops and Adidas shorts, all legs and breathy lunges in a largely unison piece that gained in momentum, speed and intensity. Some of the repetition involves a six-count grapevine as they cross themselves (in the Catholic kind of way), interspersed with confrontational strongly weighted turns. They repeat a series of phrases with a mounting ritualistic fervor, as if in search of a pattern that will take them to another plane.

The piece ends with each woman in a spotlight doing her own phrase of eerily elegant dancing, all elbows and far-off gazes, reminisent of a go-go dance without overt sexuality, mesmerizing in its absence of affect.

The next work by Katie Faulkner is a duet called "Stammer," with Alex Crow and Virginia Broyles. The dance begins as the two women create a layering of gestures and sounds: a touch of the cheek, back of the hand banging the forehead, a knee buckling...coupled with sighs, coughs, and toddler-like play noises. They stand at slightly askew angle to one another, suggesting communication by making a shared instrument, rather than talking directly to one another. In a simliar vein to Hannon's piece, the pattern-making repetition continues until we feel like we almost understand their language but not quite; in fact, we are happy to continue to try and decipher the world across which we have stumbled.

Their gestures and utterances become a multi-layered dance, as they dash across the space and repeat and transform into full-bodied exuberance. Virginia glues her forehead to Alex's pitchforked arm, as they run around in a smooth circle. If that sounds funny, it is. Hilarious, in fact. Another funny moment: the two hit a pretty girl pose, about ready to roll again, and Alex haltingly coughs, trying to get a frog out of her throat, as Virgina patiently waits for her to stop. Midway through the dance are quiet utterances of "shit" and "goddam," as they stomp and buckle. The comic timing of these two is spot on, which, when coupled with a sincerely performed modern dance vocabulary is a subtle, highly difficult feat.

There is no other sound but their own voices and gargles, with the exception of the sound of glass shattering at the beginning and end, timed with bright flares of light. We become witnesses to soft destruction, a world that manages to re-erect over and over again with the women skittering back to home base in the upstage left corner, heels and wrists cocked and ready to fire one more time.

The final piece in the program by Ashley Trottier, "Mermaid out of Water," is a duet by Roche Janken and Sam Stone, opening with a slow catwalk to Serge Gainsbourg, each subtly strutting forward with shy glances and slow blinks.

Like the previous pieces, this one is another game, this one slightly more muted, set to Brahms and sounds of the ocean. Much of it takes place with their backs to us, as if they are quietly playing in the sand and don't want anyone else to see. Their voices burble up and begin to fill the air into haunted song, just outside of harmony suggesting an off-kilter unity. The piece evokes for me images of the movie "Heavenly Creatures," in which two young girls create a fantasy world that becomes increasingly real and all-encompassing.

In the end, the two face us and cascade us with a repetition of two phrases, coupled with angular gestures as they scoot upstage on their sides, until the repeated words become disjointed and eventually lose their meaning, or simply become another lanugage.

Connecting the three dances are interludes cut from a previous piece by Bianca Cabrera: all five performers in a haunted land and soundscape of alien crawls and rolling shoulders and dipping heads. The five women become animal, pack-like. In two of the interludes, Alex lays on her back and transports each woman to the ground next to her with her four limbs. In fact, there is a collective tranport system in which the women smoothly flip each other from their heads to their backs to their feet, as if they are transporting one another to the next realm, which become the next dance.

Despite the fact that viv is presenting work from three different choreographers, the show is incredibly cohesive in its depiction of private language, semantically-loaded gesture, sound and movement. The more the phrases repeat, the more we become privy to the increasingly complex layers of meaning and releationship among all of these women. The whole show depicts five women in the same game together, not in competition, but rather, sharing in a whole experiment, chugging along in this foreign terrain in a kind of harmonic synchrony.

viv members Roche Janken (above) and Virginia Broyles (below) 

viv members Roche Janken (above) and Virginia Broyles (below)