Dance Review: ‘Night Stand’ Has Its Premiere at Dia:Chelsea

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 15 Oktober 2013 | 16.43

Paula Court

Night Stand Slow and austere, yet playful: Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson in this 2004 dance piece, which had its American premiere last weekend at the Dia:Chelsea gallery.

At Dia:Chelsea on Saturday, two black panels shaped like twin towers were showered in opalescent light. Hands gripping the panels were the only visible parts of the bodies that rolled the shapes gradually forward toward an audience on risers and then back into the darkness at the rear of the large space.

A sortable calendar of noteworthy cultural events in the New York region, selected by Times critics.

It was the start of "Night Stand," an improvisational dance by Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson. Its sold-out two-week run is the first dance presentation at the gallery since 2001. New York performances by Mr. Paxton, a titan of the 1960s and '70s avant-garde and an inventor of contact improvisation, are nearly as rare. He and Ms. Nelson have been improvising together since the '70s, and "Night Stand," never before performed in the United States, was created in 2004.

The initial sequence was like an overture, foretelling the rest. The performance was slow and austere yet playful. It was about how much can be suggested with simple props and dramatic lighting, by Carol Mullins. It was about two figures in deep space — not two shapes but two people, alone together.

The soundtrack, excerpts from Robert Ashley and the Russian cabaret rocker Pyotr Mamonov, contributed cries and whispers, distant beats and talk about God. The two dancers, Chaplin-esque when walking away, might have been acting out a silent play by Samuel Beckett originally written in French. ("Night Stand" originated in Montpellier.) Along with the panels, which became doors, were a wheeled platform, pillows and a plastic bag.

Ms. Nelson, who fished with a curved stick and balanced it on her head, had a greater range of speed and motion. She scampered, explored, and balanced on one leg. But she was most compelling when she crumpled as if under a heavy weight, then hauled herself back up.

Mr. Paxton's minute adjustments of the spine were fascinating though sporadic. He bent to touch the floor, but he was generally more monolithic, impassive, maintaining his dignity with a tissue box for a hat. He spent so long under a piece of fabric that you wondered whether he could get out, but he looked like Rodin's Balzac under there, and when the fabric turned out to be a kimono, he wore it like a grizzled Kabuki actor.

Besides Ms. Mullins's lighting, which defined space with blues and yellows and a glowing plastic bucket, the drama was between the dancers. Their attunement was so fine that you felt it more when they avoided each other than when they joined in an awkward ballroom dance. A hand proffered and accepted might lead anywhere or nowhere.

By the end, the wheeled platform strongly suggested a bed, as their dressing and undressing of each other evoked a domestic scene, unsentimental yet affecting. This was no one-night stand. This was an old couple, standing together as night inexorably approached.

"Night Stand" continues from Thursday through Saturday at Dia:Chelsea, 535 West 22nd Street; (212) 989-5566,

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