I saw who i am (who i am not), choreographed by Rachel Bunting, not long ago: It was the first piece on the first program of The A.W.A.R.D. Show! at Columbia’s Dance Center. Although its remount for a double bill at Links Hall last weekend came quick, The Humans (Bunting and Precious Jennings) had it reworked quite a bit. More fleshed out as an installation — there were a number of setpieces at Links, as opposed to just the “chime portal” onstage at Columbia — who i am was able to delve even further into its odd universe. Beginning naked and barely lit in a far corner, Bunting dresses before us facing a folding screen up against the back wall. Whereas in most cases such screens create an impromptu closet from a sliver of room, here the sliver was the room itself, the dressing and preparatory space the vast expanse of the stage and house combined. I relished the implications of this slow and casual reveal; Bunting was making no mystery of inviting us into her personal territory. As a matter of fact, there was no invitation at all — she merely announced that’s where we were.
Jennings appeared from out of the dark once Bunting was in costume and then who i am began as I had remembered it (they spoke after the show of some technical difficulties the night I attended but, even having seen it before, I won’t say anything seemed horribly awry). As I’ve already given it a full review I won’t reiterate the details but it does play better in the friendly confines of Links. Tucked away in one of the room’s only-occasionally-maximized three closets, an unseen collaborator worked at an overhead projector with gel filters and liquids, throwing a variety of abstract looks onto the upstage wall. At one point Bunting is at the closet’s open door as Jennings is absorbed in an adagio phrase — she grabs a pen and fills an owl-shaped reverse silhouette of light with the words “you” and “me” in an impassioned and unpredictable sequence. As she runs out of room, the letters blur and are overwritten into incoherence. They become the owl’s feathers. It’s a much longer work in this iteration but benefits from the wider arc. The aggressive coopetition of its opening sections, briefly reprised at the end, needs the absorbing yet elusive B section I saw Friday. With it, who i am more closely approximates sonata form, becoming a pathétique on twindom.
Cast deep into shadow by Bunting’s raw duet, It’s ok not to know, choreographed by Helen Lee, is a womens’ quartet in dire need of magic. Lee is a young and very passionate dancemaker, but section after section of this work was, to me, a reiteration of the same handful ideas present in the first. On four sajājīd made of sod, the dancers of Momentum Sensorium (Allison Law, Jenna Pollack, Laura Tennal and Laura Good) roll through long stretches of floorwork and kneeling phrases with halfheartedly-plaintive reaches. With so much of It’s ok‘s vocabulary having a low ceiling, however, it was disappointing to find how little of it kept the dancers in any whole, honest dialogue with gravity. I never shook the feeling that, instead, they were there only because they couldn’t muster the energy or motivation to stand. Lengthy stretches of motionless lying and interchangeable tracks of glitchy, twee electronica by Kaada, Rachel’s and Múm didn’t help; this was one of the least-energetic dances I’ve seen in awhile, and on a warm summer’s night the effect was narcotic. At its most engaging, It’s ok not to know was surprising but unreadable: One solo ends with an incongruous, somewhat-acrobatic headstand, and the majority of one of the final segments is built around a dance that rather matter-of-factly begins climbing up a wall. I don’t doubt Lee had made deep personal investments in the work — indeed the program notes that the piece is dedicated to “my harmonee, who passed away this May” — but the prism through which they were abstracted scattered her ideas too widely for me to gather and reassemble them.