zoe | juniper brings “A Crack in Everything” to NY Live Arts

zoe | juniper by Christopher Duggan

zoe | juniper performs "A Crack in Everything"
photo credit: Christopher Duggan

The company zoe | juniper, directed by choreographer Zoe Scofield and visual artist Juniper Shuey, brought “A Crack in Everything” to New York Live Arts last Wednesday night. The company strives to place the visual art and choreographic components of its pieces on equal footing, an aim evident from the moment the audience entered, when we were greeted by an almost-disorienting projection of fluttering leaves.

The piece’s title, “A Crack in Everything,” was evoked by a number of jarring breaks, including strobe-like flashes of light, blackouts, and/or abrupt stops in the music. These “cracks” however, most often did not invite connections, instead serving to cut off and isolate sections from each other.

The first two dancers to enter were strikingly clad in flesh-colored body stockings accented with gold designs, and dramatic mask-like eye makeup completed by gold wings at their temples. The dancers were soon joined by video images of themselves doing the same movements at a slight delay. These video projections recurred throughout the performance, at times in ways that made the audience question whether it was indeed a projection or was dancers behind a scrim. At other times, the projections were clearly of dancers other than those onstage, or were multiplied in impossible ways.

Beyond the video projections, there were a number of other devices multiplying the levels of remove through which we saw the dancers. The scrim–from the floor halfway up to the ceiling–was later revealed to be a clear plastic sheet behind a layer of fabric. The white floor, when lit in certain ways, doubled the dancers’ images like a reflecting pool.

In one rather bewildering scene, two of the dancers, one male and one female, were stripped of their outer layers by other dancers, and then removed their body stocking themselves. Sitting naked facing each other on two chairs, the dancers began barking at each other in an increasingly aggressive manner while another dancer continued, un-phased, with the alternately balletic and Gaga-like movements that characterized most of the piece’s movement.

In the program note, the directors describe their interest in “creating tangible artifacts from the performance within the installation and calcified memories within the photography.” Attempts to do so were evident throughout the piece, most obviously in the video projections, but also in a repeated motif when one or more dancers appeared with a red string between her teeth, held taut from an invisible point in the wings. In another scene, one of the dancers drew on the clear screen, moving across the stage with Gaga-like movements, while simultaneously drawing multiple, overlapping dancing figures in red. The outlines seemed to simply emerge in her wake, so gracefully was her drawing intertwined with her movement. These two images of red lines provided points of resonance across sections of the piece: both evoking the residue of the dancer’s physical presence in space. The drawing scene was to me one of the most touching moments. “A Crack in Everything” had a number of such engaging moments and arresting visual images, but lost coherence toward the end, as its cracks proved too numerous.