Ben Munisteri’s evening of dance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fisher theater is quiet, unassuming, even gentle. This isn’t to say that the choreography is easy – in fact, with its segmented penchés and slowly promenading partnering, it's anything but— – but that it has an easy dynamic flow. Frankly, I don’t miss the flashiness so easy to find in other troupes.
Munisteri’s first piece, Antimony 51, is a première. In his program notes (Munisteri is a man of lengthy program notes), he explains that the element the piece is named for mainly exists only when coupled with another element. The word “antimony” itself apparently means a logical paradox, something that is easy to spot in Mr. Munisteri’s fascination with symmetrical and mirrored choreography. Arabesques, broken down into distinctly separate segments, appear again and again, as does the image of one dancer sitting on the shoulder of another, slowly turning and spiraling down.
Though the relationship among the dancers is never explicitly explained, it’s somehow enough to know that there is a deliberateness and intention behind their interactions. To (poorly) paraphrase a quote attributed to Freud, sometimes a stare is just a stare; we don’t need backstory, drama or even an explanation. The dancers wear two-toned unitards (costume design by Harry Nadal), with one iridescent pastel color on the left side of the body and another on the right. Though Munisteri varies the dynamics of his piece –a swift horizontal leap into another dancer’s arms is followed by another slow promenade – there’s definitely something controlled, something atmospherically even about it as a whole.
Petrichor, the second work, was created last year. Munisteri explains that the word means the scent of the air after a rainfall and lists several sources for his movement vocabulary, as varied as Martha Graham’s Heretic and parkour – only to end his note by dissuading the audience from trying to identify these sources. Instead, he recommends watching the designs.
It’s a fun, frothy bit of movement exploration, which somehow never feels too superficial. A swift, repetitive ball change feels almost clubby in its execution, but not vulgarly so. A windmilling arm phrase with flexed hands is performed over and over again, in different iterations, canons and sequences, but it never becomes old hat. Clad again in bodycon-esque unitards of varying neck and hemlines, beautifully mottled in color, the dancers are clearly enjoying themselves. It’s a looser atmosphere than in the opening piece – more relaxed, buoyant, locomotive. There’s also a clearer connection among the dancers, physically speaking: They crawl, sink and roll on the floor, joined sometimes by outstretched arms.
Almost equally impressive are the mash-up melodies of Pogo that serve as the score. Bits of Disney princesses’ songs can be recognized alongside obscure film dialogue. By rearranging and juxtaposing these snatches of song and word, a new, entirely different score emerges. It is the same with Munisteri’s choreography and even with the dancers’ smiles and eye contact: Everything old is new again.
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