Dance enthusiast and Staff Writer Alyse Rovner reviews Barnard/Columbia Dances at New York Live Arts, and is here to tell you it’s worth the subway ride downtown.

Barnard and Columbia are taking the stage downtown at New York Live Arts to perform three captivating dances. The choreography is complex and dynamic, and the show features both experimental modern dance as well as more technically driven pieces. At no point did my eyes falter from the stage, afraid I would miss out, as each piece commanded attention.  

Barnard/Columbia Dances at New York Live Arts presented three pieces, with a brief intermission between each piece. The first dance, titled Again? What Now?, was choreographed by Yvonne Rainer, a renowned modern dance revolutionary who is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Barnard College. The second dance, titled Walk Good “Lady,” was choreographed by Davalois Fearon and premiered during the show. The third dance, Carrugi, was choreographed by Doug Varone.

As the audience made their way to their seats, performers on stage danced and recited commands to one another such as “go.” This set the scene for Rainer’s piece, in which dancers exaggerated common movements like putting their hands behind their heads and performing a pain in their back. The dancers performed sharp upper-body driven modern movements with jumps situated in the center of the stage. The informal nature of this introduction to her piece made it seem as if they were practicing for the actual performance. 

The dancers in the first piece, Again? What Now?, wore casual clothing: tank tops, baggy pants, and running shoes. The lighting was that of a typical dance studio, and around the room were red folding chairs with white pillows on top. The dance began with audio about the “fossil of a hedgehog” and later expanded to spoken word with phrases like “Oh, frontal lobes, who needs them?” and even Tina Turner music. 

The movement had expansive and contractive qualities in some moments, and in other moments, the dancers’ small movements became progressively exaggerated and even performed in slow motion. The choreography was complex and took no singular form, mirroring the variety of music and audio that accompanied the piece. The piece contrasted stiff movements with calming music, and was unpredictable, relaying a confused and complicated atmosphere. In some moments, these people are questioning and critiquing, while in others they are fighting or just having fun.

The performers in the second dance, Walk Good “Lady,” wore white outfits with silver splattered on them, and the majority of the dancers had their hair in space buns. The costumes portrayed aliens and extraterrestrials, an interesting choice given the title of the piece, which makes reference to being a woman. The dance featured slow and repetitive movement phrases at the beginning, and later shifted into more upbeat choreography, ending with slow movement phrases again. The piece used the dancers’ bodies to create music, incorporating spoken word and clapping motions to which they danced. They heckled one another with phrases like “Why do men only like…”, “People say I’m really pretty for a Black girl…”, “Say thank you,” and “I’m charming.” These phrases created an angry, fierce, and powerful environment on stage, which was later contrasted with the limp and tired bodies of women who needed to help one another. I had chills by the end of this performance, as I watched these women quite literally bringing each other back to life and embracing one another after hardship. 

The dancers in Carrugi wore neutral clothing. The designers utilized brown and red lighting with fog to set a dramatic scene. The choreography was extremely technical and precise, using expansions and contractions in addition to contact choreography within duets and trios. The dance played a lot with power dynamics: dancers breaking away from the group, dancers controlling and moving one another’s bodies. The piece featured many lifts and played with solos, trios, duets, and group numbers. 

This dance felt less heavy and emotional than the previous two dances, providing a more dramatic and romanticized atmosphere. Selections of Mozart’s La Beatulia Liberata accompanied the dance, and the choreography effectively mimicked the breaks and changes within the music, using sharp rapid movements when the song picked up and more expansive and smooth choreography during mellow moments.   

Overall, the show was extremely impressive and well worth its $20 price tag. I would highly recommend going to see this show–especially since this is the premiere of two new pieces! Additionally, you will get to see my favorite piece, Walk Good “Lady” by Davalois Fearon, which literally blew my mind– it was raw, emotional, vulnerable, and unlike anything I had ever seen before!

Performances will be held at New York Live Arts located at 219 West 19th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The remaining shows are at 7:30pm on Friday and at 2pm and 7:30pm on Saturday. 

Dance (not NYLA) via Flickr