New York

David Woodberry

Byrd Hoffman

David Woodberry was one of the dancers in Octopus, but his own solo Dasan diverges from Dunn’s insofar as Dasan is primarily preoccupied with evolving a choreographic design that will make salient specific qualities of the body (strength, weight and balance) rather than with setting in motion an extended play of formal correspondences.

Dasan begins somewhat ambiguously: Woodberry is on the dance floor when the audience arrives, pacing around often looking toward the door. One’s uncertainty whether or not the performance has begun directs close attention to Woodberry’s movements. Finally, Woodberry takes off his flannel shirt and dungarees and begins to run around the performance space, at first only running forward, but later running backward too. He increases speed, then slows down. Alternating direction and velocity, he begins to add more movement variables including slides, feinted falls, and slides into and kicks off the wall. These variations on modes of running and falling introduce the major themes of the piece—power and effort; weight and balance.

This segment of continuous phrasing is followed by one involving balloons. These balloons counterpoint the running and falling by virtue of their lightness. They can be moved with the flick of a finger in sharp contrast to the effortfu I ness of Woodberry’s running. The seeming 0weightlessness of the balloons, bouncing off the floor, prepares the way for Wood-berry’s next three segments of dancing which revolve around the relation between the dancer and the floor. Wood-berry remains close to the floor for long periods, sometimes basing his support on a single arm or leg. With regard to this apparent muscular tension one suspects that the balloons represent a pun on ballon, motivated by Wood berry’s opposition to a balletic interpretation of the body in terms of grace in favor of a conception in terms of effort.

In another sequence, Woodberry dresses, and from a sitting position, rocks backward into a somersault, then flips over into a crab walk with his back facing the floor. From this, he flips over into a crouch, leading to a hand-stand,falling into a somersault, into a crab walk, a roll, a crouch, catapulting into a leap. Woodberry adds running and leaping to the phrase sequence as well as returning to his one-legged kneel. Yet, for all the arduousness of moving from one difficult position to the next, there is no slackening of pace or pause between positions. When this segment ends, Woodberry begins singing a ballad while swaying back and forth in imitation of a farmer sowing seeds. Like the balloon segment, this functions iconically as if to metaphorically anchor the preceding dance themes of endurance and effort by means of a direct reference to manual labor. The short-term, extreme exertion of the dance contrasts with the continuous, long-term exertion of work. This disparity, however, is then figuratively broken down. Wood-berry’s swaying becomes wider until he tips onto one leg. With his torso parallel to the floor, he flails his arms and leg wildly, hopping on one foot out of the performance area. Thus, the dance ends with the elision of work movements with dance invention, which seems a fitting identification given Woodberry’s intense concern with the physical dimension of dance.

Dasan is especially interesting because of its continuous phrasing on the floor and piling of one arduous phrase on another without pause. The unusual body positions and the rate of attack, that is generally sustained, is quite exciting though there are sequences that drag somewhat. For instance, though the balloon segment makes good sense in terms of the overall piece, in and of itself, its own internal design is somewhat lackadaisical. Nevertheless, Dasan, despite flaws, suggests that Woodberry is a promising young choreographer committed to exploring dance forms that acknowledge the body as a physical entity.

Noel Carroll