nytheatre.com review by Mitchell Conway
August 13, 2011
Not bound by logic or a unifying idea, The Dreaming is a dance performance from Octavia Cup Dance Theatre. The play opens and closes with a girl sleeping on stage, so at the start I assumed the content of the production would take place in her dreams, and reflect one individual's sleeping unconscious. But there are no character-specific choices to establish that individuality, and in fact, the girl sleeping at the beginning is different from the girl at the close. So The Dreaming unravels as dance for its own sake, inspired by the realm of fantasy.
The dexterous dancers—Laura Ward, Georgina Aragon, Cindy Bernier, Nana Hitomi, Cassie Roberts, and Jen Barrer-Gall—inhabit a variety of impressions. A duet between an older and younger woman felt genuinely romantic. Composer Michel Ayello's machine-techno and severe German speak-singing accompany the full cast in short black wigs, moving in starts, often physically connected to each other, looking one way then another with a bodily jerk. When scurrying creatures feed on a body it is one of the more clearly established moments. A ballet duo who looked as though they could be twins entered eerily on pointe. When an onstage dancer's shadow was projected across the wall, with a still image of a glass room, for a moment a relationship seemed about to be established where the shadow moves as though in the projected room, but did not follow through.
The video projections by Anna Hovhannessian and Ella Condon of eyes, landscapes, and many images fading into each other and out, with incomprehensible voiceover snippets, fit the medley of dance numbers, and did not noticeably connect.
I left The Dreaming wondering what I expect attending dance that is not contextualized by a story. I think when I've thoroughly enjoyed this type of performance in the past, the performers have had a clear action, however mysterious to me as the viewer, that makes the dance compelling. Moving in and out of a sideways split is impressive, but even if a character is not established, a performer must have a purpose for being on stage. There were moments, such as the romantic duet, that felt more filled, but generally it felt like a scattering of impressions that left no impression, possibly due to lack of clarity as to what they were making an impression of. If I feel a dream is meaningful, I don't have to understand it, but I must feel that source of significance behind it to make me think about it in the morning. Octavia Cup has some really skilled dancers. I would be interested in seeing their work coming from a clearer sense of vision.