Sometimes I think Chris Yon’s dances look just like him. Like his face- deadpan, slightly sardonic, dry humor lurking under the façade. Or his clothing- not fashionable, but hip, stylized, understated, quietly radiating a particular aesthetic. Like many pomo dance-maker/performers, I’m pretty sure Chris Yon is always a dance piece in life.
It was remarkable to me then, that SWAGGERPRANCE, which featured an eclectic cast of 9 dancers, none of them Chris, should still be so quintessentially Yon-ish. So seamless, so dynamic, so well composed, so reeking of the delightful quipishness and underlying darkness that mark his work.
Simply put: I FUCKING LOVED THIS PIECE. Why? How?! How could this strange collection of 9 dancers look so good? Dancers whom I would NEVER think to cast together even if I were experimenting with strong drugs, John Cage-ian chance techniques and a hat of Minneapols dancers names. How could such a hap-hazard jumble of rehearsals (I heard a bit about the process from Tara King) turn into such a beautifully composed puzzle? How was it so goddamn satisfying?
I never knew what was going on, but I always understood. There was a clear internal logic to this piece, and Yon was able to maintain it and play with it. He is a genius of timing, of detail, the subtle shrugs and gestural nuance. The way Sam Johnson entered in full silver regalia after the rest of the cast had made their way on stage, a rainbow swaggering in two-by-two onto a very nonchalant ark. The subtle progression of casual stances built up to a perfect pitch for Johnson’s subdued rock-star entrance. The subtlety of his attitude was key, the build-up was masterful and hilarious.
Another moment of comic delight: Gabe Anderson (dressed in all dull red) orbiting a random red ball onto the stage, setting it down, and almost immediately orbiting it off again. Strange, unprecedented, and perfect. Mirrored again with an orbit from Jim Lieberthal (all in purple), the piece built its logic on visual cues, dissonance, and clear, confident intention emanating from every performer.
The duet between Matt Regan and Nick LeMere was a highlight- there was beautiful understated understanding between them- a simpatico that made perfect sense when I found out later that they were attempting to telepathically communicate as part of the score. A mixture of playfulness tempered with restraint, ridiculousness executed with 100% confidence and commitment.
The intricate interweavings of pairs, trios, quartets, solos and full groups only progressed from there. I could see repetition at work, but was never bored. I could see all 9 performers frequently onstage together, spread across the notoriously difficult Red Eye expanse, but I always knew where to look; my eye was always directed, interested, engaged. Yon knows when to pause, when to lull, and when to shake us up with a frantic yellow rope spastically shaking in a stark side light.
Yon also knew how to highlight people and work them to their best advantage in this piece. Taryn Griggs is always a magnetic presence, and I was happy to see her featured so prominently (as usual) in Yon’s work. But I never thought anyone else looked awkward or bad (which would be easy, dancing next to Griggs and her perfect embodiment of Yon’s particular aesthetic, an aesthetic which arguably is equally hers.) Each dancer captivated, melded, didn’t blend, but off-set each other in a way that made the disparate cast seem unquestionable.
I want to see this piece again. Again and again, to enjoy the mesmerizing compositions, the laugh at the oddness, and to luxuriate in the mechanics of structure and performance landing so solidly that they made a worthwhile content without any lucid meaning. This is imagination at play with the body as machine, and I want more of it.
Chris Yon – SWAGGERPRANCE to keep from crying
New Works 4 Weeks Festival – Red Eye Theater
June 12-15 2014