Vicky Shick’s newest piece, presented at Danspace, was a motley crew of a thing in all aspects: colorful and wildly patterned costumes; dozens of pop-up solos, duets and trios, often occurring simultaneously; multi-generations of dancers; and even two separate “stages” within one space. Although this combination gave me more than enough to look at, the overall product felt more distracting and less cohesive than I would have liked. The piece’s biggest asset was its ability to be both matter-of-fact and whimsical at the same time.

© Barbara Kilpatrick
© Barbara Kilpatrick

St Mark’s is already a fascinating performance venue to begin with, since it functions as a nearly in-the-round space, but Ms Shick chose to separate the stage straight down the middle, length-wise, with a gossamer curtain. This allowed several different dances to operate at once, giving the audience members the option to concentrate on what was happening on their side or to take a peek through the translucent curtain and see what was happening opposite. I suppose that this is a unique and possibly intriguing set up for a piece, but when numerous solos and small groups began cropping up on both sides of the curtain, my brain struggled to stay with one happening for the duration of its existence. This was soon frustrating and later trance-inducing.

Having read some interviews with Ms Shick about her process for this piece, it was easy to see how her method of just choreographing for whoever could attend a particular rehearsal translated to the piece. The whole thing looked slapdash to me, as if Ms Shick had just ordered the material generated in rehearsal, thrown together some outlandish costumes, and pushed her dancers on stage. I know that there is merit and interest in arbitrary dance, but with so many individual pieces happening at once, I couldn’t really see the forest for the trees.

Ms Shick’s nine dancers (she herself also danced in the piece) were admiringly committed, however. It was satisfying to see each dancer perform his or her small bit as if that were the single most important part of the piece. There were a lot of hip undulations and shuffling feet and tableaux and body-generated percussion. I also loved watching the dancers watch each other perform from the sides: there was a pleasant sense of community and group investment.

Ms Shick may have sought to create nothing more than an abundance of fleeting images and intricate choreographies, but if everything is fleeting, I am unsure what I am to take away.