Llory Wilson

Washington Hall Performance Gallery

The serenely agonizing dances of Llory Wilson burn with a chilly, angry humor. Dualities are a persistent theme in her choreography—disparate urges in constant grueling dialogue with each other, human life as the product of paradoxical biological drives, with none completely subordinate to any others, presses the divergent aspects of dance movement to their polar extremes, generating a tautly managed anarchy. Her dancers perform with a fierce athleticism: their precision is so unearthly as to seem emotionally remote, yet their attack has such physical presence that its power sucks you in: spirit entwines corporeality. Riding a parallel track with each broad motion in space is a solitary gestural nuance, so disconcertingly quirky as to be comic, but so abruptly intimate that it gives us a backward shove. Epic narrative competes with delicate theatricality in a divinely subtle agon: momentary revelation is the sole reward.

Wilson’s new full-length piece This Cordate Carcass, was inspired by the work of artist Frida Kahlo. Each of its 13 sections is starkly and ardently penetrating. They take place in a constricted space of scaffolding and spiked poles. The setting reveals Kahlo’s hallucinations, in which the artist tries to piece her various selves and affections into a meaningful final pattern. The musical score, set, lighting, and five dancers are stunning. Wilson uses these five kinetic bodies to paint in space. The complexity of movement that she favored in the past has been simplified. A skeleton death-figure scampers about the stage under a slow strobe light. A painfully bent-over figure, walking like an insect on bound toes with metal crutches for front legs, obstinately circumnavigates the space in an agonizing tour de force. What should be horrifying becomes funny, and what might be comical is instead heart-wrenching. Organizing the emotional layering of her movements now more temporally than synchronously, Wilson seems to be moving her concert-length pieces toward a Latin American fabulist structure.

Jae Carlsson