To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on Thursday night’s Sombra by Maria Helena Pinto and Madame Plaza by Bouchra Ouizguen. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
White floor, a line of upended big, black buckets across the upstage, a couple of white ones, right-side-up and just in front. Maria Helena Pinto appears from a blackout but we still can’t fully see her. Her head is obscured by, you guessed it, a big, black bucket.
Her piece is Sombra and she begins with a walk across the buckets. Her steps are as sure as they can be, her gestures gentle. Her dancing is sure and gentle too. It’s like she’s used to being in there, head obscured but with other senses attuned.
Her body is sensuous and curvy. She is honey-colored and languid. We can read her well against the white and the black. One floor phrase in particular gets my attention as she launches herself in a circle, her head the pivot point. Various limbs take turns in the bucket, one arm then another, then a leg. Her body’s equilibrium shifts lower, much lower, foot with head in a black bucket on a white stage.
Upside-down yoga-like poses became possible, though perhaps one of the only options. She makes the best of what she has. A new row of buckets flies in mid-stage, emanating light. She manipulates these, affixed as they are to a crossbar. But they can swing and entangle. They too do what they can.
In a flurry of dancing near the end her bucket flies off. I wonder if it’s a mistake? It seemed to take her by surprise. She soldiered on and everything felt different. What had been a slow build of tension was released and slightly perplexing. I did not capture the logic but was glad she was free and hoped her second walk across the bucket tops took her somewhere new.
Madame Plaza is a smartly crafted, slow burn of a piece. Four women on three long cushions rearrange themselves slowly. Individual movements are quotidian yet precisely timed, in perfect accord with the others. A balance is somehow struck, stage picture-wise, and this virtue continues to embed as the work unfolds.
The women’s voices are used. With no warning one among them begins to shriek and call. The others join in, responding, leading or both. Whole conversations unfold and though I have not a clue as to what’s being said, I am enthralled. It goes back to that stage picture balance I think. Every level is thought about and perfectly contrived. A doubled-over dancing duet accompanies a prodding, noise-making couplet. The cushions are made to stand and are stacked. Two do this as two couple up, one now dressed as a man.
Timing is key to this piece. Sound is reserved for when something needs to be said or underlined with music and not just because music usually accompanies dance. This essential relationship dynamic makes for a piece that allows itself to unfold according to its own inner logic. A song or score’s imposed duration had no bearing here.
Slow to unfold but long on remaining with me, Madame Plaza was a joy to observe and attempt to decode. The four women emerged as singular individuals. Had any one of them not been there I feel as though I would’ve missed them. It is a testament to Ms. Ouizguen’s craft that she allowed each personality to contribute so affectingly. She herself is an astonishing dancer, intuitive and guileless.