August 7, 2012
Jonah Bokaer, former Cunningham dancer, choreographer and media artist,
collaborated with stage designer Daniel Arsham at Jacob's Pillow. Recently performed
in Avignon, France this US premiere of "Curtain" and "Les Innocents" was supposed to
include David Hallberg, principal dancer of ABT. Due to injury, Mr. Bokaer reworked the
piece for the Doris Duke Theater, using the natural splendor of the Berkshires as the
backdrop for "Curtain" with two talented dancers, the wiry Adam H. Weinert and James
With the back barn door of the stage open, Mr. Bokaer stood in repose, his back to
the audience. He began moving with subtlety, pointing a highly arched foot, extending
a well shaped leg, rising to expose a muscular calf. The music, composed by Chris
Garneau, was interspersed with a 1984 recording of a John Cage interview at the
At times this meditative music allowed the mind to drift and the eye to ponder
the view. At one point the wind picked up, blowing the black curtain and the sheer white
shirt of Mr. Bokaer, (artfully designed by Richard Chai). Visible footlights created a
barrier which Mr. Bokaer crawled over in a suspended plank pose. This was a minimal
piece....was he the "curtain" or the feeling of the curtain, or manipulating an invisible
curtain? After a predictable "fall" from the window, a more inventive moment came when
Mr. Weinert pulled the actual curtain to reveal Mr. Bokaer standing, once again, his
back to the audience.
The next piece, "Sage Phrase" was performed to annoying static, dings and whining
music by Bernhard Günther. A plaster cast of a man was disassembled and taken off
stage by Mr. Weinert while Mr. McGinn poured a white liquid into a sand mold, which
seemed to glow. Perhaps this was an elaboration of the power of repetition or memory?
It was frustrating to see the potential in the dancers bodies as they "spoke" or
created "sentences" in this language, but real movement never came and the
choreography of "Les Innocents" was virtually identical, only viewed with a bit more
speed and from different angles. A section of "blowing" allowed Mr. Weinert and Mr.
McGinn to react to one another and an interesting moment came when a barely visible,
Mr. Bokaer agitated through a series of machinations, looking like a bug of some kind.
There was beauty in the way the dancers manipulated their bodies but it felt like a
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deborah Wingert