Trauma, flailing, mania, aloneness; whirling, translucent arms... Still/Restless by Rosanna Gamson/Worlwide opens with RESTLESS and closes with STILL. A beam of light reveals what was once hidden. The evening-length dance work is as much about the dance as the individuals in the dance. The movement invention seems less important than how each person performs the movement using personal expression. Light is centered on you, serving as a homing device or navigational beacon.

<i>Still/Restless</i> © CalArts, Photo by Steve Gunther
Still/Restless
© CalArts, Photo by Steve Gunther

The first half of the evening-length work, RESTLESS, began with onstage can-lights projecting upward. Jun Hong Cho approached, arms flinging in arcs until his arms were invisible due to lightning speed. Jonathan Bryant approached, touched, calmed, soothed, and stopped Cho’s flailing. This mania and calming sequence repeated with Bryant, Joseph Badalamenti, and again with Kearian Giertz, creating a cycle of manic ungroundedness. Alexandria Yalj calmed Giertz and the space was suddenly partitioned by scrims aided by inventive lighting by Tony Shayne.

Scrims defined what was visible and what could still be seen of a world that was not meant to be seen. Lavinia Findikoglu began performing downstage of the scrim, followed by Yalj shadowing her upstage of the scrim. Viewers see a duet of sorts. Soon, the men gradually join the women in unison behind the scrim. The scrims open part way focusing on the men, revealing arcing and flailing arms and a head whipping wildly in a frenzy. This phrasing repeats itself over and over wth spoking limbs, tender self-touch, reach, arcing arms, spin, level-change, recover, repeat. Two men wrestle wildly. Social dances occur, in which we recognize the music, the steps, but we are not told the relationships. We are seeing inside someone’s house, maybe someone’s mind.

The scrims part revealing a swath of light in which people meet, explore, and pass by. Two men perform with free-flow, cross-lateral, robust, full-bodied expressivity, while the two women engage with lighter, more delicate, spoking limbs, and gentler bursts of energy. A narrow diagonal shaft of light appears. Dancers travel in it, meet, move through it, cross over, spring through, and pass in and out. The visual appeal is one of the most striking moments of the evening. The lighting powerfully defines the space, directs our attention, and commands dancers’ attention. The canned-lights are brought to the stage again revealing the men’s movement, which is more fluid and the women’s more bound.

The second half of the work, STILL, opens with a translucent, stitched, fabric house (by Carlo Bryan Maghirang) suspended high above white flooring. A bright light is cast, creating a zone of light in the shape of a square on the floor, in which Badalamenti stood quite still. It is not long before his movement becomes frenzied, with fast spinal rolls and dives—clearly, no longer still. The full company eventually joins in a compelling phrase using pathways repeated each time a new facing occurred. A light touch was offered between dancers, and often those being touched did not seem to be conscious of the interaction, as if touch were not visceral, as if touch were translucent, like the sheer fabric house and like the scrims that did not hide our view.

<i>Still/Restless</i> © CalArts, Photo by Steve Gunther
Still/Restless
© CalArts, Photo by Steve Gunther

In STILL, lighting becomes a powerful generator of mood. As in Piet Mondrian’s Composition in Black and White, the stage becomes defined by squares and rectangles of white light on a white floor, yet the design seems more decoration than intention as the dancers neglect to interact with the spaces defined by light. As the music swells and volume increases, the phrasing does not change. The dancers grab each other, but give little response. It is as if everyone is fully alive but anesthetized. The piece ends as it began, with dancers emoting and changing shapes above vertically projecting can-lights. The dancers’ intentionally reveal a loss of focus, as if each is unsure of his or her role in the world. The addition of Tariq Mitri, with his gentle, clear approach to his kinesphere and Megan McCarthy’s long limbed reaches added strength to the company. Kayla Johnson’s abilities went underutilized.

The approach to movement in RESTLESS/STILL was intentionality linked to the biomechanics and personality of each of the movers. This realization exposed a missing link in this dance, which was movement development and arc, within each piece and of the whole. The dance remained even, almost flat, due to predictable Effort Qualities and phrasing. The style of movement varied so much from person to person that the dance seemed to be about the performers’ approaches to the subject, rather than Gamson’s need to craft and design intentional movements. One thing was clear, that the dancers arrived alone, enacted, interacted, and ended up alone . . . much like life itself.

***11