Friday December 4, 2009 - On Thursday evening, Kokyat and I had attended the dress rehearsal of Greg Dolbashian's Sundowning performed by his DASH Ensemble at Joyce SoHo. Tonight we went back for the premiere. The 26-year-old New York City-born choreographer and his troupe are making their full-evening debut with these performances. Greg himself put together the music, spacing it with passages danced in silence and some speaking, laughing and shrieking by the dancers.
Click on Kokyat's images to enhance the view.
The title Sundowning comes from a medical condition associated with dementia and often found in patients developing Alzheimer's disease. In his dance work, Greg shows mood swings, erratic behavior, tenderness, giddiness and the shifting energies of inter-personal relationships. It's a very human piece, and interspersed between the dramatic moments and the comic there's a lot of dancing. Kokyat felt it was somewhat like watching a play, not because of the spoken words but because the work presents vignettes that flow together in a scenario in which the look is contemporary but the emotions are timeless.
The work opens with a light-hearted segment for the men (Jonathan Windham, Christopher Ralph and Antonio Brown, above).
Their trio continues until three women arrive on the scene; things are getting shyly flirtatious and maybe headed for romance when a fourth woman appears. From here - with all the dancers in play - we are whisked into all kinds of situations: push comes to shove, there's a tickling game, mirth and madness alternate, witty hand gestures become a form of communication, duets commence and melt away as the various characters come and go.
Shadows often became participants in the dance; lighting designer Burke Wilmore set the space in a way so that images of the dancers will has suddenly loom up onto the walls: sometimes to amusing effect, and sometimes almost ominous in their dreamlike context.
Lyrical passages flow freely as the dancers (Christopher Ralph and Alexandra Johnson, above) encounter one another in situations by turns romantic, comic or edgy.
Christopher and Alexandra
Alexandra Johnson: shadow dance.
Marie Doherty and Caitlin Fennick
In one of the darker passages of the work, the women seem about to sleep but their hands continue to tremble and restlessness prevails.
Antonio Brown, Marie Doherty and Christopher Ralph. In the work's most poignant moment, Antonio cries out desperately: "I need you to love me..." but soon his desperation shifts to a deranged, whimsical state and his voice goes into falsetto.
Antonio, Alexandra and Christopher, above. Jealousy and envy are often in play, and moments of tenderness can turn threatening and then evaporate in a flash of humor. Sometimes it seems that we are watching inmates in an asylum attempting to carry on normally despite their declining mental connection to reality.
In SUNDOWNING, the line separating the real world from the imagined blurs as the piece evolves. The dancers search for ways to relate to one another as the mood pendulum swings from frantic to withdrawn to outright silliness. They tease, cajole, frighten and caress one another, finally retreating timidly back into their own world at the end.
The dancers looked so fine at the dress rehearsal that I was simply expecting that same level at the premiere; but they took it to a higher plateau of intensity and commitment tonight, reveling in the ever-changing movement: from spastic to sustained. There were flourishes of pure technique and each dancer showed the physical and emotional characteristics that make you want to see more of what they can do.
The DASH Ensemble take a bow: Alexandra Johnson, Jonathan Windham, Shakirah Stewart, Antonio Brown, Marie Doherty, Caitlin Fennick and Christopher Ralph.
Choreographer Greg Dolbashian assembled the score for SUNDOWNING from the works of several artists unfamiliar to me: Daedalus, Hans Otte, RadicalFashion, Peter Brodrick, Max Richter, Colleen, and Prefuse 73. Spun together with the movements danced in silence, all the music was appealing and - along with the lighting - created its own world.
All of Kokyat's photos here are from the dress rehearsal on December 3rd.