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Dance Review: Faye Driscoll’s Thank You for Coming: Attendance is Pure Wonder

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford Dance Review: Faye Driscoll’s Thank You for Coming: Attendance is Pure WonderChoreographer Faye Driscoll's new piece, Thank You for Coming: Attendance plays at the Wexner Center through April 17, 2016. Photography by Maria Baranova.
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One of the things any live performance does is remind the audience that right now we’re all here experiencing something together. At its best, it gives a chest-filling joy that we can’t get anywhere else. Choreographer Faye Driscoll’s new piece, Thank You for Coming: Attendance which opened at the Wexner Center for the does that better than anything I can think of in a long time. It’s 180-proof wonderment and sensual delight burned over a bright flame. If you’re willing to let its energy wash over and seep into you, its rewards keep coming and coming.

The performance opens with all of us seated on the floor of the performance space around a raised platform as the troupe (Giulia Carotenuto, Sean Donovan, Alicia Ohs, Toni Melaas, Brandon Washington) appear above us, singing an abstracted version of the warnings about cell phones, recording, and no re-entry, then they race onto the platform. All wearing tank tops and shorts, barefoot, they link themselves together and twist that mass of five bodies into a variety of shapes. This is sometimes a chimera-like evolution, sometimes a feat of strength as when Carotenuto lunges forward, back leg extended to its full length and seems to pull everyone else with her, sometimes a end-of-the-Mary-Tyler-Moore-show group hug moving en masse and sometimes something earthier with a person trying to force their foot on another’s shoulder.

Choreographer Faye Driscoll's new piece, Thank You for Coming: Attendance plays at the Wexner Center through April 17, 2016.

Choreographer Faye Driscoll’s new piece, Thank You for Coming: Attendance plays at the Wexner Center through April 17, 2016. Photography by Maria Baranova.

Eventually, they come off the platform and engage the audience directly. There’s touching and some whispering, moving into various couplings as the platform moves around us. Michael Kiley, the composer and sound designer, works with the amplified sounds of the platform early then draws more attention during a riveting sequence where the dancers’ jerky movements, perfectly in rhythm with his acoustic guitar, enact scenes from a party in a way that looks like time lapse photography, as he sings a song just comprised of names. The dancers’ act out immediately recognizable movements, some childish and some very adult, singing a repetition of names at various points like a chorus as their expressions flow between desire, glee, dread, and pain. It’s a moving look at how much of our lives are spent doing the same thing over and over again and a look at the people who flow through them.

I’m going to avoid giving away the ending, which brings in the choreographer, volunteer performer Jess Cavender, and other support staff into the performative mix, but it was surprising and exactly what it turned out I needed to see at the end without knowing it. I’ve liked everything of Driscoll’s I’ve seen, both here and in New York, but this hit a new level for me. This hit a nerve I didn’t even realize I’d been neglecting. It’s not for everyone, you have to be willing to sit on the floor, sometimes uncomfortably close to someone else, and you have to be willing to interact (to a greater or lesser  degree). When the almost 90-minute piece ended, everyone I saw leaving the performance walked out grinning.

As I walked out the door and the cold air hit me in the face, it felt as though the very stars had shifted in the sky and the ground had an elasticity I hadn’t noticed before. The next morning as I write this, I’m still delighting in sensations and trying to unpack images from this remarkable, joyous show. Do not miss this if you can avoid it and you have an appetite for unexpected interaction. The second part of this proposed trilogy is slated to come to the Wex in the Fall and it’s immediately at the top of my must-see list.

Thank You for Coming: Attendance runs through April 17 with shows at 8pm Friday and Saturday and 2pm Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit wexarts.org.

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