The Austin Chronicle


Local Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Robert Faires, June 25, 2004, Arts

Where Nothing Falls II

The Domain, Building 6, through June 27

Running Time: 1 hr

The two people reach for each other, straining to connect, but they cannot touch. They're facing each other in separate swings that move forward and backward in sync, so the space between them remains constant, the gap between their outstretched fingers always the same. We observe them from a distance, and the vast, open, unpeopled space around them makes us feel their yearning for contact even more keenly, has us leaning forward in sympathy. After some time, their movement shifts, allowing them an embrace but only ever so briefly.

By the time we see this in Where Nothing Falls II, Sally Jacques' rich extension of her site-specific dance from 2003, we've witnessed a number of individuals walk and run to and fro between their own shadows on a wall and some unseen force that appears to startle them, until finally all fall and lie still on the hard floor; four figures attached to ropes leave a catwalk high in the air and float to earth, their sideways bodies curled like fetuses; angelic figures on roller skates glide from a dark void toward us, and as they come kneeling and scooping their hands, as if through water, to offer us its cooling relief, two figures, their hands gripping long, elastic bands, launch themselves into the air, their feet leaving the earth, their bodies swinging, soaring, sailing through space – we've seen this and much more, even a quartet of celestial skateboarders, rolling thunderously up wooden ramps and down to surf the concrete, winding through the forest of tall, concrete pillars and one another's paths. In short, we've seen a breathtaking parade of bodies in motion, human beings confronting loss, separateness, and their place in the wide, wide world through the massive expanses of a warehouse in the Domain.

In this continuation of Jacques' Where Nothing Falls, space takes on new meaning. The immensity of the venue here is astounding, and from the first moment, with all those dancers moving back and forth in parallel lines dozens of feet apart, it lends the work an epic scale. The first production's space was certainly large, but the placement of the artists in it, particularly in relationship to the audience, and their movements and the lighting gave it a different feel, not so monumental. The elements combined so as to suggest a setting in the heavens – perhaps heaven itself – with us lifted up to watch angels glide through clouds and human souls ascend. Here, the space feels much greater, and while Jacques has retained elements that suggest the earlier heaven – the catwalk to which dancers ascend, those serene skaters – her placement of the dancers so far away heightens our sense of them as small, isolated, vulnerable. We might be in heaven, observing those fragile souls still on earth, their longing for connection so great, their time together so brief and, therefore, so precious.

No other performing artist in Austin works on a scale this grand, and it goes to the heart of Jacques' work, how she uses bodies in motion and what she's trying to say about the gulfs between person and person, hand and hand, soul and soul. Such vastness of space inspires a kind of awe in us, and seeing one of us suspended in that space, whether crossing its empty reaches on foot or dangling in it high above a concrete floor, inspires a kind of wonder that connects us to the grandeur of creation.

We watch these bodies so removed from us, so removed from anyone, and it at times tears at our hearts. We see them captured in the blazing red beams of miniature suns to the sounds of a plaintive cello – Terry Muir's playing drowns the heart in melancholy. We see them leaning against slender columns of fire created by orange light rising from the base of each pillar and silhouetted against striking rainbows of light fanning out across the darkness at the far back wall, as Tina Marsh's voice weeps through Puccini aria and Welsh lullaby. The musical selections and the artfulness of their live performance, the vibrant soundscapes of William Meadows, the tightly focused, saturated illumination of Jason Amato (who may have set a new standard for his exceptional work) – all meld with and enhance the feel so beautifully and ethereally crafted by Jacques and her dancers, who co-created the choreography and who form an extraordinary ensemble.

Ultimately, through the distance and aloneness, we come to appreciate those rare, precious moments of union: the clasped hands across the great divide, the embrace in the air. They are the fissures in this great expanse of existence, and as we hear at one point, in Marsh's glorious, ringing rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Anthem," "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." In Where Nothing Falls II, the light pours through.

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