Dance review: ‘Light Noise’ resounds, complexly

Lucy Lee Yim and Jesse Mejia combine for an entangled dance experience at Disjecta

Toward the end of Lucy Lee Yim and Jesse Mejia’s “Light Noise” at Disjecta Friday night, Yim herself took on the solo that she asked all the dancers to attack. Like a lot of the rest of the dance, this solo looked simple, but its deliberate twists and bends, seemingly spasmodic tempo changes, brief flirtations with phrases that looked balletic or jazzy, and the frequent “dramatic” poses it settled into and then disrupted indicated a different level of complexity.

Yim didn’t exactly breeze through this labyrinthe, but her course through it was sinuous and knowing in the way only the choreographer’s course could be, perhaps, her body naturally negotiating its turns smoothly and quickly.

The other dancers brought their own dance bodies and temperaments to the solo. Takahiro Yamamoto’s version was deliberate and grounded. Leah Wilmoth’s, dignified, even through the “crazy” bits (a frantic drubbing of an imaginary washtub with arms and fists, for example). And Keyon Gaskin’s, so serene, he seemed confident in implying a little soft-shoe routine.

Still, that solo seemed able to bear more scrutiny, more interpretation. And in some ways that’s one measure of a solo of an abstract sort: how open-ended is it? Open-ended enough for future creative encounters? On this score, based on a sample-size of four, the answer would be in the positive.

****

A dance that can be interpreted lots of different ways places a burden on its audience. What do we make of it? And that becomes a very personal thing (at least until you share it with someone else).

For example, I decided “Light Noise,” which continues at 8 pm Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24-25, was comic in a “Human Comedy” kind of way. All those curlicues and spasms of movement leading to the poses—typically head held back and an extended arm pointing the way—made me laugh to myself. I seemed to be alone in this: The rest of the audience watched intently but in silence, nary a chortle or a smile that I could detect, even when the movement was whimsical at the very least, if not slapstick-y.

Keyon Gaskin and Takahiro Yamamoto in "Light Noise" at Disjecta/Cristin Norine

Keyon Gaskin and Takahiro Yamamoto in “Light Noise” at Disjecta/Cristin Norine

And then the movement would collapse into something resembling comradeship (or maybe exhaustion), tight little balls intermingling the torsos and extremities of two dancers. At the very end, they lined up, one behind the other, standing, then lying on top of each other, then seated, leaning into each other, forward or back.

This interpretation makes sense of the information in a Willamette Week preview article. Yim apparently told the writer that two of her influences for “Light Noise” were Martha Graham and Yvonne Rainer, which is a comic pairing, when you think about it. Graham, who turned Greek myth into movement, channeling Medea or Phaedra or Oedipus and converting them to high drama, meeting Rainer, who resisted any sort of narrative and any sort of “natural” movement, especially in her signature “Trio A.” In “Light Noise” Yim leads up to her Graham poses using the circuitries of Rainer.

In the program she also cites Lucinda Childs, and some of the traveling sections of the piece with their simple repetitions of basic movement resemble vintage Childs, c. 1970s. I’m not sure how Jane Fonda, another specific influence, figures, but Yim has worked with Tahni Holt as she explored making dances with multiple possible interpretations. And maybe some of the more madcap phrases recall Linda Austin, with whom she’s worked as well.

But here, I’m telling MY story, giving my interpretation, and it may be the furthest thing from the mind of Yim and her collaborator, composer Jesse Mejia, whose soundscape proceeded along in a parallel sort of way, punctuated by a human from time to time that marked dividing lines in the dance. The sound of glass being ground under foot (or so it seemed) among so many barefoot dancers made me cringe a little, I have to admit.

****

The Willamette Week writer made a LOT of the toplessness of the dancers. I read it as a further allusion to and elaboration of those classic Graham-esque poses, but no one in the audience seemed particularly agitated by it, one way or another. There’s a strip club across the street from Disjecta for those inclined in that direction.

Disjecta can get pretty steamy (somebody buy these guys some air conditioning!), and the room stuffed up a bit, even though the evening outside was cool. Dress appropriately. It was also packed on Friday night, with some people standing and fresh chairs dragged into to fill around the edges, then spilling out after the show for beer and wine and conversation in the night air.

NOTES

Here’s a description of “Light Noise” from Jesse Mejia’s website: “In “Light Noise,” the sensuality of the body, as a material, and the power of the body, as an image is performed. Bodies become crystalline forms, animals out to pasture, warriors and queens. “Light Noise” works under the notion that our bodies are not completely ours but always subjected to the eyes of others, hybridized and complex. Sourcing from the individuality of the dancers, “Light Noise” mines the particulars of this complexity, engaging with the potential that arises while working to embody it. What emerges is an inquisitive, questioning body where a myriad of archetypes wash through, passing like ghosts and fantasy beings.”

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