April 16, 2012
With the premiere of “Compromised” at the Hudson Guild Theatre, Wendy
Osserman Dance Company explores the polarization of the political stage through
an evening-length work created by Osserman in collaboration with four dancers.
Set to musical arrangements of Eric Satie and drummer Victor Lewis, the score also
includes interviews with people representing both right- and left-wing viewpoints.
The tone of the performance is generally light and breezy; Osserman manages to
avoid treating this over-wrought subject with a heavy hand.
As a soft hum of jazzy drums starts to play, dancers Milan Misko and Cori Kresge
enter from the back of the small theater, heads bobbing like chickens, eyes alert,
scanning the scene. Both dressed in dark suits, Misko takes the lead as Kresge
dutifully echoes his movements—the image of an eager campaign aide comes to
mind. The movement itself appears loosely choreographed; the dancers frantically
gesticulate their hands and then casually traipse about the space, seemingly without
any clear purpose or intention. Misko at times looks to be psyching himself up for
his big campaign speech, while Kresge keeps her place behind him, always moving,
yet never in the spotlight.
The second section, “Forward or Back” takes a literal approach, pairing Misko
with Cara Heerdt to execute a prolonged series of wobbly balances that reach in
opposite directions as the two move forward and back along a diagonal line. Heerdt
occasionally swivels her hips seductively, and when the two finally make contact,
it seems inevitable that Misko is about to jeopardize his political ambitions for
a passing distraction. The deal is sealed when Heerdt pitches over into what is
known in yoga as a “downward dog,” extending her back leg to reach to Misko and
beckoning him back to her with her foot. When Misko meets his political rival—
a striking Lauren Ferguson—the two struggle to gain the upper hand, even pacing
dramatically around each other. Subtlety of messaging is not a cornerstone of this
work; Osserman clearly drew direct inspiration from the characters and situations
that typically accompany any sort of political campaign.
Osserman herself appears several times throughout the piece, often accompanied
by text that pits progressives against conservatives; this ideological split is reflected
in the lighting, which alternately illuminates and darkens halves of the stage. As
if trying to guide the discussion, Osserman stands center stage, directing traffic
with her hands before finally giving up; apparently the effort of making opposing
sides listen to each other is just too much.
Osserman’s movement follows the light,
improvisational vein established early in the piece; it often appears that her body is
making its own decisions about what it wants to do—sometimes she tries to control
it, and sometimes she just goes with it.
This sort of tooling around does not make for
particularly engaging choreography, but it does alleviate some of the predictability
of the subject matter.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jessica Moore