Episodic Fantasia

Heather and Antonija’s situations for dancing

“I was here last night, too!” “Really? I’m definitely coming back tomorrow!”

Ever overhear this kind of talk at a dance show’s intermission? For most choreographers, it’s a dream too wild to entertain. But Heather Kravas and Antonija Livingstone found a way to make it come true. Present a new piece in four episodes spread out over four nights. Of course, it only works if, as was sometimes the case with “XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXX—a situation for dancing.” the dance itself is fun.

Yes, the period is part of the title, and the string of X’s stand in for a more provocative visual this newspaper can’t recreate—the stroke of a black marker that obscures a block of text from a letter written by Kravas and Livingstone. Whatever “situation” led to the dancing we’ll never know, and Alberto Gonzales will surely never tell.

Friday’s show—“The end is dear.”—opened with parting curtains revealing the choreographers standing before us in black tights, white T-shirts, socks, and soft ballet slippers. They looked boyish—slender physiques, small bosoms, and hair cropped à la Jeanne D’Arc. Eyelids closed, then blinking, finger joints slightly flexing, they seemed, to my momentary dismay, to be the very soul of minimalism. At either side of the stage, four people straddling chairs, hunched motionless over their backs as if patiently awaiting massages that would never be.

Perhaps the negligent masseuses were our very own Kravas and Livingstone who, looking anaesthetized, were caught in a perpetual loop of basic ballet barre exercises. One such segment clocked in at 10 minutes of nothing but extending the leg, pointing the foot, withdrawing the leg, making a quarter turn, repeating this sequence, returning to the original direction, repeating it all—a mechanical swiping of feet against floor that sounded like wipers cleaning a windshield and tested viewers’ tolerance. Totally brazen. Meanwhile, Reed Anderson—barely noticeable in a corner with scissors in hand and a small light strapped to his cap—filled a box with white paper leaves, snowflakes, and confetti.

After winding down their barre, Kravas and Livingstone donned curly, silver beards and white briefs equipped with cotton testicles at the crotch. Bed pillows tied to their torsos simulated the ample paunch of age, and the pillows’ dangling labels hung between the women’s legs like flaccid penises. What now? Why, relevé! Rising onto the balls of their well-articulated feet, the pair then noisily dropped their heels over and over and over. The curtain closed then reopened to show one oldster pitched forward as the other forlornly bleated. Later, Anderson stood atop a ladder under Chloe Z Brown’s cool lighting and sprinkled the pair with the paper cutouts. Autumn, winter, turn of the year.

There followed some gentle grooming (paper caught in beard), some barked vocalization (“cunt” becoming “can’t,” “can,” “gun,” and so forth), and a fresh batch of repetitive moves (the women bobbing like cartoon chickens pecking the ground). The Hungry March Band—a klezmer combo—suddenly blew down the stairs to the stage, lighting it up in joyful noise and color for a few seconds before trailing off. Nothing stirred onstage for an uncomfortably long time—testing audience, testing, testing—while a commotion arose out of view. Kravas and Livingstone reappeared. Sunglasses, jet-black wigs, and breasts and butts made of black balloons strapped down by duct tape gave them an edgier aura as they resumed exploring ballet fundamentals ad nauseum.

Suddenly, two young men slithered from seats behind me and proceeded to kiss, grope, and writhe toward center stage. The scary ballerinas carried on, unfazed by the steam rising off these surprise guests who, it must be said, performed with conviction. More intermission chat overheard—“You guys were really good! Are you a couple?” “It’s an ongoing process. I’d say we practice pretty much every day.”

Each night, Kravas and Livingstone’s episodic fantasia shared a double feature with “3petiX,” a U.S. premiere by Moscow’s PO.V.S. Tanze

collective. Unfortunately, the longwinded “3petiX” was short on structure, sense, and charm.