Wednesday May 22, 2013 - Ian Spencer Bell's PASTE-UP was performed at City Center Studios this evening. On entering the studio, the dancing area has been created: a square has been taped off on the floor, studded along its perimeter with large light bulbs. The viewers are seated along all four sides of the square; as the house lights dim, the self-illuminated space comes to life.
There is no music for PASTE-UP though one of its sources of inspiration is Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. The only sounds we hear are the voices of the dancers calling out individual words.
The ballet commences with the ten dancers leaping across the space one by one; they repeatedly execute flying jetés from one side of the square to the other, or on the diagonals. As each dancer's jump reaches its apex, he/she calls out the word "Lift!". Yes, I know: it sounds terribly simplistic - even naive - but in fact it weaves a particular spell.
A trio evolves, danced by Ian Spencer Bell, Lindsey Jones and Joshua Tuason (above), and the word being said now is "Left!". The movement vocabulary expands cautiously, with straight-armed salutes and more variety of steps and self-expression.
Switching to "Loft!", the full company enter the space; they begin to touch one another, there are partnering elements and lifts along with seemingly improvisational self-contained solos. The work's opening leaping patterns are repeated, now executed in trios.
Introspection comes in Ian's solo; we seem to be eaves-dropping on the dancer as he works alone in the space. He's talking to himself: musing on Britten and on the music only he can hear, quietly infatuated with the sound of his own voice. Other dancers intrude, calling out things like "a beautiful melody!" where there is none.
Above: Stevie Oaks, Lindsey Jones and Courtney Lopes
In an animated quartet - Lindsey, Joshua, Courtney Lopes and Stevie Oakes - the individual instruments of the orchestra are named along with descriptive words. The finale builds with the full ensemble, their voices becoming more urgent and their dancing more extroverted and complex. One by one the dancers exit, leaving Ian alone in the twilight, his voice fading to nothing.
I have described the facts of PASTE-UP but it's rather more complicated to describe the atmosphere of the piece which has an odd intensity and a dreamlike quality. It evokes memories of innocence and of the simplicity of dancing alone, unobserved, discovering oneself with music that comes from within.
Ian's works are distinctive and seem to evolve from simple and highly personal musings, finding a connection to the viewer thru the movement and the expressive gifts of his individual dancers. He certainly has a unique place in the current NYC dance scene and I look forward to seeing more of his work.
Appearing in PASTE-UP are: Ian Spencer Bell, Lindsey Jones, Courtney Lopes, Stevie Oaks, Mara Driscoll, Debra Bona, Oceane Hooks-Camilleri, Sally Kreimendahl, Vani Ramaraj, Joshua Tuason, and Justin Rivera. The lighting design is by Nicholas Houfek.
Photos by Taylor Crichton.