nytheatre.com review by David Ian Lee
November 18, 2009
Presented by LeeSaar The Company in a vast performance venue at Performance Space 122, Prima features four lithe and distinctly modern female dancers in a 45-minute presentation that combines elements of ballet and jazz with krump, rave, and dance styles of an indefinable nature. The choreography is attributed to Lee Sher and Saar Harari, yet a highly organic aesthetic suggests a more collaborative nature of the work, as does the crediting of the ensemble as "creating dancers."
The dancers—Jye-Hwei Lin, Hsin-Yi Hsiang, Hyerin Lee, and Candice Schnurr—are simply breathtaking. Three very petite women and a third whose athletic physique might be described as ever-so-slightly more Baccanale than Balanchine, they move with fervent intensity and ease. Several sequences of Prima take place in absolute silence and feature periods of magnificent stillness; launching out of these moments, the perfect synchronicity of the company is a thing of wonder. They seem almost preternatural, able to perceive one another's movement utilizing a sense not granted mere mortals.
Some of the movement of Prima suggests demure femininity, such as the astounding leg extensions by Lee, or the girlish coquetry of Lin (who is featured, in one solo, in a dance of only her fingers, flashing and twisting with blinding fluidity). Other images conjure defiance and strength, most notably in the work of Schnurr; interestingly, Schnurr occasionally replicates a gesture suggesting enforced supplication, her arm twisted into supination as though by an unseen aggressor. Most revelatory may be Hsiang, whose body is capable of contortions and compactions that defy all common understanding of human biology: Her initial appearance is in a segment that alternates between sensual hip grinding and undulating, then spasms and wrenched body positions reminiscent of J-Horror cinema.
When the women dance to scored music, the selections are from DJ Filastine's album Dirty Boom, and run the gamut from reggae-fusion-hip-hop to the sounds of science fiction films and police actions: The tone is carnal, pulsing, and oft delightfully offsetting. Joe Levasseur's lighting design utilizes several dozen instruments hung sans-gels, allowing the playing space to glare astonishingly bright or be reduced to sexy silhouettes and shadows with a snap of the fingers. Coco Bofo's costume design wisely drapes the four women in street garb, more suggestive of L train hipsters than practitioners of dance found in stuffy studios and barre classes: the dancers wear skinny jeans and feminine, taut shirts possibly shelf-picked from Urban Outfitters.
I recommend Prima without reservation to audience members in astonishment of the mechanics of the human body, those struck by things beautiful and mysterious, and anyone in search of a deeply moving theatrical experience transcendent of language. Folks liable to get hung up on narrative and direct intent may want to take a pass, but for anyone else, this modern dance conception makes for a perfect evening's entertainment and enlightenment.