As part of its Summer Sublet Series: Dance Co-Op 2015, SoHo’s HERE Arts Center paired female choreographers Laura Peterson (Brooklyn) and Nichole Canuso (Philadelphia) for a terrific world-premiere program of their latest original works, ATOMIC ORBITAL and MIDWAY AVENUE. In keeping with HERE’s mission, both are “fresh, adventurous, unexpected” and “challenging,” as well as complementary, manifesting two different paths of the human brain: investigations and discoveries of the scientific intellect; and the effects of memory on the psyche.
Merging art and quantum physics, Peterson’s ATOMIC ORBITAL features a troupe of seven dancers replicating the motions and interactions of sub-atomic particles, as theorized in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. At times synchronous, at times seemingly random and unpredictable, the lone and paired bodies give form to the positions and momentum of electrons as they circle, jump, shoot, and collide in patterns, iterations, and indeterminate courses. The well-researched and highly physical choreography, performed with balance, control, and mathematical precision by the skilled dancers, is set to an original soundscape by Peterson and Gerritt Wittmer that evokes the minimalist abstraction of the Atomic Age, with industrial noise, ringing, echoing, and clanging appropriate to the movements. It is intelligent, aurally potent, and visually hypnotic.
In contrast to the scientific concept and structure of Peterson’s work, MIDWAY AVENUE, devised and performed by Canuso, is an intimate and witty solo meditation on the personal psychology and emotions elicited by remembrances of the places she lived, the contents that filled those homes, and the events that transpired within them—or didn’t, per the occasional false memory (a dead body she envisioned on her family’s sofa!). As much performance art as dance, the unconventional piece combines expressive movement with spoken and written word, voice-overs, music, everyday props, and inventive lighting and shadows (designed by Maria Shaplin) to trace the past and its impact on the present (“I lived in it, now it lives in me”). Set to Chopin’s 24 Preludes (one for each major and minor key), Canuso’s reminiscences, in which the piano played a central role, echo the varied moods of the Romantic compositions, along with their rhythms, pauses, and repetitions. Using chalk and masking tape to outline the constructs that affected, defined, and stuck to her, Canuso’s story is funny, poignant, imaginative, and fully relatable.
If you missed the short four-day run at HERE, I expect that these engaging and provocative pieces will become a part of Peterson’s and Canuso’s regular repertory–as they should. [HERE Arts Center, 145 Avenue of the Americas, NYC] August 27-30, 2015; nicholecanusodance.org; lpchoreography.com.