New York

Laura Dean And Dance Company

Logiudice Gallery

Laura Dean and her dance company, who have performed alone and with Steve Reich, recently presented two performances of Dean’s Circle Dance at the LoGuidice Gallery. Ten dancers, including Dean, move clockwise and counterclockwise in circles marked on the floor, in count cycles ranging from over 500 to two beats. The dancers, equidistant from each other in each concentric circle, move with a tiny shuffling step, the resulting sound almost like stamping—1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2—equally accented except for the slight variations of personalized syncopation. At given intervals, they change direction, beginning with the outermost dancers and progressing inward, and at the end of the piece, each dancer whirls in a fixed spot, arms outstretched, for a set number of rotations.

Dean differentiates her dance turns from the whirling dervish dances of Sufism, arguing that her choreography is less stylized in movement—her dancers can turn in either direction, leading with either foot, the arms in any position. However, in spite of the differences from religious cultism, Circle Dance is highly ritualized. The double-timed step seems like monotone chanting, while the concentration on counting, the arbitrary changes within the work, and the white worn by the dancers, all seem ceremonious. On the one hand, the dance seems to be an exercise toward a spiritual state, like saying the rosary or singing the Hare Krishna; on the other, it is similar to the formal pattern of dances done by bees in order to convey information about the direction and distance of food sources. Both instances require great stylization—institutionalized forms are essentially conservative, uniform, highly regimented, and often produce prescribed emotional states.

Dean’s choreography is similar to contemporary work in the plastic arts which makes use of archetypical forms—circles, spheres, and processes of numbering—in an attempt to rediscover essences or sources. Much of this work seems schematized and obsessional, moralizing and self-disciplinary. Occasionally, as in the Circle Dance, the rhythms of the ritual generate a hypnotic or trancelike feeling. But if one is not a believer, fascination decreases as the pattern and variations become known. Ritualistic art is reactionary and reproductive in form and feeling, for it is severed from the evolution that occurs in phenomenological perceptual experience. For such formats to maintain a depth of content, the elements must have enough textural interest to allow many internal permutations of the system.

––Lizzie Borden