Written by Cat Gilbert
All Photos courtesy of HERE
In “Floating Point Waves,” Ximena Garnica, video artist Shige Moriya, as well as composer Jeremy D. Slater and lighting designer Solomon Weisbard team up to create a meditative look at the elemental chaos of nature. Garnica, a trained dancer and co-director of The New York Butoh festival, and Moriya, a video/installation artist, form the collective “Leimay” (a made up word based on the Japanese term for the moment of change, as well as the change between eras). Many of the strongest elements of the piece lie in the fusion of Shige’s design with Weisbard’s subtle lighting and Slater’s minimalist soundtrack. Garnica’s movement remains heavily centered in the Butoh, and her execution, while strong and compelling, is at times slightly more repetitive and static then one would hope (even for Butoh.) The main strengths of the piece, the fusion of hybrid elements-video, constructed stage-are also its weaknesses in the preparation and construct somewhat watering down the potential spontaneity of the piece.
The piece opens with a series of net structures reflecting the bell shape of a jellyfish, positioned to catch the strobe
light that flickers and changes behind them. Garnica darts through, around, and into the nets, pausing to stand head down, long dark hair hiding her face, a menacing pose slightly too reminiscent of “The Ring” for its own good. Her face is painted white, in a contemporary Butoh fashion, and at times I was disappointed that her hair obscured her striking and emotive features. With her background and the tenor of the piece (elemental “raw” nature), it’s not surprising Garnica chose a foray into the unpredictable nature of both the physical and psychological environments via movement. The outstanding moments in the piece come most notably when Garnica is caught in the tortured seizures where she prostrates herself and flings her body onto the floor over and over again. Despite a certain predictability, Garnica’s style is beautifully and convincingly done, so much so that when she slips on the stray water splashed from a portion of the show while taking a bow at the end, I pause for a moment to wonder if it was staged or not. As the nets pull back, the wall is lit with a Roarsach ink blot and Garnica creeps eerily, unnaturally through its pulsating center until she reaches the end and the stage goes black.
As the stage lights for the next scene, Garnica is positioned on a handcrafted wooden balance board, atop an amplified metal sheet. Jerking back and forth, her movements are slow, clawing, baby-bird like. Groggily she is assaulted by the new environment. She scrapes her nails along the wood, elicits echos, and finally in a shaft of beaming light, points with a great intention, producing a sound that echos through the board and into the audience. It is moments like this, particularly the very literal pointing, that take away from the piece, despite their grounding in the movements of Butoh, they don’t quite capture the same depth of feeling of a master movement artist. Eventually Garnica is on her feet, thrusting back and forth, falling, falling, and falling again, each time landing squarely on the board. It is here you truly begin to see what a strong, developed, controlled dancer Garnica is. The next portion takes place in the pool and is the peak of the performance, as Garnica partners with her own shadow to create beautiful echos of motion, created courtesy of Jeremy Slater, in the undulating neon green and pink waves behind her. Ripples creep up her bare legs and eventually take over the screen. Garnica rolls, prostrates, bathes in the shallow pool, all while her specter (often multi-limbed) responds above.
In the final scene, there is a beautiful dance of strings, knotted into a triangular peak that seems another nod to the structure of cephalopods. Their movement is orchestrated by Garnica’s up and down motions, creating a living, breathing, hypnotizingly minimalistic creature for a brief moment, which is ended with the blaring force of six heat lamps bearing down behind her so brightly, the audience is forced to shield its eyes. Garnica bounces violently, and the string tentacled creature seems to breathe with effort, heaving and gasping for air. Finally, mercifully, blackness.
The playbill description of “Floating Point Waves” most accurately states, “The only standing point becomes instability itself,” which on some level could read as the tag line of Butoh. It takes a keen sense of this artistic purpose to embrace the piece, but the dance that ensues between the four collaborators holds a large amount of merit in its cohesive if overly conceptual structure. It embraces a moment of change, of fear, of acceptance, of the unsteady nature of nature and breaks it down again and again and once more until we are little more than the soaked flesh that Garnica presents. With this expectation in mind “Floating Point Waves” yields compelling and rewarding results. It leaves the viewer’s mind processing the true “point” of the piece, the art of Butoh in the realm of the digital age, and finally the painful historical realms that Butoh movement, and what this dance form in tandem with a virtual landscape can achieve.
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