European Dance Highlighted at Skirball

Lily Dolin
A moment from the "V.4 Dance Festival," performed at Skirball this past weekend.

The “V.4 Dance Festival” featured bold contemporary dancers from all across Central Europe at NYU Skirball Center for Performing Arts on April 19 and 20. The Debris Company from Slovakia was highlighted, along with Timothy and the Things, a dance group from Hungary. The dances represented vastly different styles and aesthetics, from tongue-and-cheek contemporary to horrifying modern, which commanded and engaged the audience.

Performed by Debris Company, the first dance of the night was “WOW!” The piece was billed as a duet that explores “the history of humankind and its impact on the environment,” according to the program notes. Yet, this allegory was often difficult to interpret in the dance. “WOW!” began with soloist Stanislava Vlčeková garbed in an Elizabethan style hoop skirt and painted all white. Vlčeková shuttered and contorted her body as the screen behind her projected constellation-like images. The music that accompanied her was an instrumental track, which echoed a creepy, almost erotic voice over a terrified audience.

As the title suggests, the music for “WOW!” left the audience with dropped jaws. It was very unsettling and distracted from the captivating choreography. The echoed voice in the music was loud but not always decipherable, and attempting to discern the lyrics only took away from the performance. Vlčeková and Peter Cseri, the principal male soloist, spent a large portion of the show holding various poses, as opposed to occupying the rest of the stage. The parts where they actually moved were the most enjoyable moments of the evening, but these moments were few and far between. 

The second dance of the night, “Your Mother at My Door,” was a duet that played with the idea of boredom and elapsed time spent on odd and humdrum activities. The setup for this piece, which involved layering the stage with mats, took over 20 minutes. It was hard to determine whether this arduously long process was part of the exploration of boredom or simply poor stage managing. 

Performed by Emese Cuhorka and Lázló Fülöp of Timothy and the Things, “Your Mother at My Door” was more enjoyable than the first dance and successfully intersected the ideas of boredom and the mundane. The simple act of playing a few notes on a keyboard, or pushing the space bar on a computer, became long and complex tasks, enacted in complete silence. The space and time between these actions became more pronounced, and in a way more exciting than the dance itself, as the dancers played with the audience’s anticipation. 

Watching Cuhorka was a pleasure, as she moved and danced around the stage with fragile grace and tenacious agility. The choreography was also fun and intricate, and even featured moments of funny dialogue and verbal jousts. 

Both of the pieces that comprised the “V.4 Dance Festival” were captivating in their own way, whether through terrifying vocal music, or through carefully choreographed boredom. Although “WOW!” was audibly very unsettling, the night was altogether definitely unforgettable.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 23 print edition. Email Lily Dolin at [email protected].

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