NYtimes | Looking Back, and Taking It Forward


Looking Back, and Taking It Forward

By Gia Kourlas

Nov. 6, 2009

Nancy Garcia and Chase Granoff take historical references seriously in two new works being performed at the Kitchen. Ms. Garcia’s “I need more” finds context in noise rock, while Mr. Granoff’s “Art of Making Dances” is more blatant, evoking the choreographers Doris Humphrey and Simone Forti and films by Jean-Luc Godard.

“I need more” is part of a larger body of work that includes Ms. Garcia’s new album, “Be the Climb” (Ecstatic Peace!). In two of the dance’s four numbers, she sings (and screams), accompanied by Sarah Lipstate on guitar and Nick Hasty on drums. The set, by Xavier Cha, features three large mobiles by Hanna Sandin that dangle above the dimly lighted stage as dancers produce indifferent movement with a flimsy rawness. Moving in unison pairs, the dancers are often sculptural afterthoughts; the strength of Ms. Garcia comes more in the music than in her ability to arrange bodies in space.

“The Art of Making Dances,” named after writings by Humphrey, comes with a self-titled book (for an extra $10), edited by Mr. Granoff and the work’s dramaturge, Jenn Joy. With this compilation of interviews and essays, Mr. Granoff has created a product — rare in dance — but in doing so, depletes his own stagecraft.

The performance begins strongly. As Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” plays, the cast gathers around Mr. Granoff, who pours Champagne. Here, Joe Levasseur’s lighting works wonders, as he gradually darkens the stage until only two dancers remain. Mr. Granoff reappears, dressed in a pink robe with billowing sleeves, to perform a solo to Bach’s “Air for the G String.” His body, though stocky, moves with an unwavering, unlikely grace, recalling a 1928 Humphrey work set to the same music.

The dance starts to crumble when Mr. Granoff and Jennifer Sullivan recite selections from the book. Their voices, breathless and high-pitched, give the readings a pedantic, show-and-tell tenor, which continues with a demonstration of Ms. Forti’s “Huddle.” (Several dancers form a cluster until one disengages from the group and climbs on top.) Audience members, at Mr. Granoff’s insistence, gather onstage to observe the structure more intimately.

After they return to their seats, he presents a different sort of closer: the Kate Bush Dance Troupe, an amateur venture that creates performances inspired by that English singer, moves in shaky unison to “The Dreaming.” Yes, anyone can dance, but until Mr. Granoff equates the power of the body with that of the mind in his work, there isn’t enough to dream about.

Nancy Garcia and Chase Granoff perform on Saturday at the Kitchen

512 West 19th Street, Chelsea