My hunch is most of the dance fans who check this site are in the Bay Area, but if you?re in New York?whether you?re a dance fan or not?go check out Noemie Lafrance?s latest work, ?Agora,? extended through October 1. Of the many spectacular things I saw during my East Coast trip last week, this sight has lingered longest: 47 performers kicking and whirling away in the bottom of a vast empty swimming pool.
Lafrance has staged previous works inside vertiginous staircases and?more recently?in a parking garage, where viewers sat in cars and listened to music piped in through the car stereo. This time she?s turned to the McCarren Park Pool on the edge of Brooklyn?s Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods, given over to vandals and skateboarders since it closed in 1983. She?s mobilized her own forces and the Brooklyn powers-that-be to pull up the weeds and sweep out the glass. And she?s filled the yawning space with an hour of entrancing kinetic images, both comic and haunting.
The dance begins with a ghostly possession and then becomes a panorama of Brooklyn?s social communities, past and present. There?s a herd of 90s hipsters club dancing in a corner of the pool one minute, a clutch of Latinos imitating a flamenco dancer over in the shallow end the next. A clever series of duets has dancers strapped to skateboards, able to drop onto their backs and spin across the concrete. At one point, the lights go out, a disco ball flies in on an unseen wire, and the whole pool fills with shards of light as a lone disco star struts. The sound system is immense, with the medley of pop songs and a creepy ambient score by Brooks Williams projected from two sides. Lafrance excels at carving this wide landscape with theatrical moments big and small. A side bit with a man desperate for privacy as he showered had the audience in giggles. A jumpy unison routine to ?Higher Ground? takes on NFL half-time show proportions. Another attraction: Lafrance once worked as a fashion designer, and the costumes by Karen Young are all wonderfully whimsical and hip.
There are shortcomings: It?s not clear what kind of statement this tour of Brooklyn?s history and societies adds up to, and a Middle Eastern bazaar ending, with the audience invited to enter the great bowl of the pool and sample hookahs, left the crowd perplexed on opening night. But the only other site-specific choreographer I can think of who?s currently working with such deep interest in the connections between history and place is San Francisco aerial artist Joanna Haigood. In the end, ?Agora? bewilders the senses not just in scale but in scope.
For info on how to attend, click here.