Culture & Conversation

Large Emotions, Small Executions

In a work of eight successive solos, José Navas explores the effects of time, memory, and dance upon his body: through each, the vulnerability of the soloist is revealed and heightened. As the title suggests, we the audience move through a series of Navas vignettes: detailed studies from which we can but guess their subjects and significance. Beauty rests in the shared intimacy of the space, and in the concentration of the dancer’s efforts.

When Navas’s Compagnie Flak performed in November as part of the 2012 Danse Danse season, Navas opened the night with a short solo set to a pre-recording of his dance philosophy. It was light. This time, the choreographer felt more sincere. His range of movement is narrow, however, each solo more or less a repetition of the last. A sweeping circle of the arm raised to stroke the top of the head before falling to the side is overused – a self-embrace that feels affected. Pirouettes are executed with speed and precision; hands are gestural, recalling mime and often suggesting an absence of something or someone. Though the motivation behind Miniatures is compelling, its final vocabulary is rather limited, its focus self-indulgent.

The score is comprised of works by Bach, Debussy, and Chopin. Lip-synching to Judy Garland, Navas again assumes the role of diva, which is still too indulgent and campy for my taste: It felt inflicted. In Solo 2, set to the powerful voice of Maria Callas (Casta Diva), dance remains the focus. Music and movement are at times in sync, at times not, and in several solos the two compete for the limelight. Overall, however, the score adds but another brushstroke to the composition.

Certain Miniatures are more successful than others: Solo 3, perhaps intended as formative, finds Navas curled in fetal position, blinded by a white shirt wrapped around his head. Choreographically it was without strength or substance. In Solo 7, Navas dons the black elbow-length gloves of an old diva, his steps frail and ragged, painfully slow and deliberate. By far, it was the most emotive and mesmerizing piece: a real study of the effects of time on the body, and of performance. Its movements were almost quotidian – simple steps reduced by age. In its extreme attention to detail, Solo 7 embodied all the intimacy and focus of Miniatures.

José Navas, Miniatures, Agora de la danse

27, 28 February & 1 March @ 8 pm


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