The Match and Solo Adaptations

Strange, funny, obvious, and obscure, Deborah Hay and company's The Match' gave me, in more ways than one, the time of my life

Arts Review

The Match & Solo Adaptations

The Off Center, Jan. 14

The even sweep of the second hand across the clock face tricks us into imagining that time passes the same way for all of us all the time. But this recent evening of dance by Deborah Hay and four remarkably skilled collaborators was a stark reminder of how differently time passes for each of us. This particular night, Hay's quartet, The Match, began with Ros Warby cantering about the bare stage of the Off Center. Around and around and around she went, sometimes making large circles, sometimes small, at times with one arm extended and turned as if holding onto an invisible railing. How long she did this I don't know, but it was long enough for one to wonder, "How long has she been doing this?" and "How much longer will she keep doing this?" and "Does anyone else think she's been doing this a long time?" That's not to say I was bored – Warby is a terrifically engaging performer, whose quirky postures and deadpan comic demeanor that would wring laughs from a Beckett tramp are endlessly fascinating – only that the repetition of movement over such an extended period made me conscious of time.

And so I was throughout the evening: Dancers moving – and sometimes not moving – in ways that made me aware of time, of a ticking in my head that would slow down and speed up, and at a rate that I could not be certain was the same as anyone else's. When all four dancers were on the floor, moving, spinning, jerking their bodies, uttering barely audible words or unintelligible phrases or just making explosive sounds, bending, stretching, contorting into curious poses, one might pull a leg, a foot, up into the most ungainly position – one a heron would find awkward – and hold it ever so gingerly for several seconds, the oddity of the movement and the slowness with which it was made drawing our attention to it and our concentration, as we sought to absorb every detail, seeming to st-r-e-t-ch time. At one point, a dancer embraced another, and all activity ceased. I focused on the embrace, which lasted, I don't know, 20 seconds? 30? 60? More? The thought flashed through my head, "This is too long," but what does that mean? Too long for who? Me? The 12-year-old beside me? The rest of the audience? Was it too long for the dancer, or did she release her partner when she felt it had been just long enough? "Long" is a concept that must be different for each of us.

Hay designed this dance with such differences in mind. If one were to see The Match on four successive nights, one would see the four solos in it performed by a different dancer each night and see four distinctly different takes on the choreographic instructions – not set steps but generalized directions much more open to individual interpretation – underlying each solo. Witnessing those variations would make it easy to compare something of the dancers' experience of time. But it was possible to see that in the solo adaptations of The Match performed following the quartet. In Chrysa Parkinson's "Next" and Warby's "The Pitcher" – two were performed each night – one dancer expanded some sections of The Match, which the other compressed and vice versa. And it was in the quartet, too, when the dancers appeared to be responding to similar instructions – as when they all made moves suggestive of dance clubs, with pelvic thrusts, come-hither looks, and other comic attempts at seductions – and their bodies appeared to be operating on separate timetables. At times, the spasmodic movements and unnatural positions made it seem that perhaps the dancers weren't controlling their own bodies, but that each limb and even each digit on each limb was operating independently, creating a gesture, a sound, a movement, out of its own little explosive experience of time.

Pulling this off, all four dancers – Warby, Parkinson, Mark Lorimer, and Scott Heron – exhibited extraordinary physical control, matched only by their exceptional willingness to explore this fascinating choreographic territory. Strange, funny, obvious, and obscure, this evening by Hay and company gave me, in more ways than one, the time of my life.

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The Match and Solo Adaptations, Deborah Hay, Dance Umbrella, Ros Warby, Scott Heron, Mark Lorimer, Chrysa Parkinson, Next, The Pitcher

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