By: Nicole Itkin
“I’m relaxing, dad!” A little boy calls out.
Yes, I agree, so am I.
I stand by the pool, listening to music sweep through the air. The garden floats to my side. Sculptures dot the property. This is the stunning home of architects Marcia Previti and Peter Gumpel-– a tranquil wonderland that might be entirely still on any other day.
But not today, not with Amanda Selwyn and her dancers on the property.
Amanda Selwyn’s choreographed evening Green Afternoon X superimposes dance onto stillness.
The dancers are boisterous, graceful, and moving constantly. They twirl by the pool, brush past plants, and leap over flowers. One heads up into a tree. Earlier in the day, I had wandered through nearby sculpture garden LongHouse Reserve. This was that, but bursting with dance.
The greenery provides stillness. There is green everywhere, crisscrossing the property and rising up. There are different paths through the property, hidden area unfolding as you walk. There’s no panoramic view; you won’t see everything, but there’s always something to see.
Everyone’s speaking and laughing, eating and drinking, comfortable. Music plays. Dancers dance.
It’s your show, but it’s not for you.
There are cameras on the dancers, videographers carefully stepping backwards. It’s like a well-prepared dress rehearsal– polished, comfortable, and ultimately for the dancers.
Walking into the gardens requires maneuvering past moving figures. Upon entering the gardens, and starting to walk the grounds, you realize you’re stuck; you might be stuck again and again, waiting as a dancer finishes a dance sequence before you can keep going, to observe the dance from another angle or grab a drink.
As one man exclaimed, about the drinks though equally relevant to the dancers: “[They] showed up without instructions!” Indeed, that’s how it feels to be watching the dancers. You’re not seated with your eyes on the stage. You’re moving. So are the dancers. It’s hard to know where to go or what to do. But that means you’re free to do as you wish.
“Since there’s a lot of people by the bar you might dance by them,” a director whispers as she walks by a dancer. Two people walk up to a fountain, splash water on their faces, then at the dancer. This is a show of support (in a humid 80 degree day), and the dancer laughs and dances away, not missing a step.
The ordinarily established separation of the theater– the separation between dance and observation, between performance and reality– is hard to find. That creates an eerie sense of understanding– the mood for the evening, which continues with dance piece Habit Formed.
This is a piece about clinging to habits and pushing them away. In this piece (where the audience is asked to sit for the first time all evening), the beautiful dancing that had been interposed throughout the garden combines into one performance. With thrilling expression, the dancers shake, pulse, and pose. They’re completely synched to the music, their breaths matching the beat.
My favorite was the scene when they clung to chairs, bored and disillusioned. They start splayed out on the chairs. They move restlessly: in motion, but going nowhere. They end with the chairs on their heads– succumbed, overwhelmed.
As they dance, you can see their thoughts across their faces, sharp in every movement. They hug each other, but don’t know who they’re hugging. They run, but don’t know where to go. They have questions, we have questions: what kind of people do you meet? Who holds on? Who corners you? Who knows! But they’re trying.
Ultimately, the message goes: Hold on.
And we do, watching.
Then, at once, they stop dancing. The music cuts out. We hear water from the pool, bubbling.
A moment of silence. Then a standing ovation– well-deserved, for a show that is as peaceful as it is moving, thrumming with energy yet relaxed into its background. It was an evening I wasn’t expecting, but for which I am grateful.
Choreography by: Amanda Selwyn
Photography by: Nir Arieli