Body language

Pub date March 25, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionDance

In watching Jess Curtis/Gravity in The Symmetry ProjectStudy #14(re)Presentation, it becomes immediately clear why sculptors from Michelangelo to Maillol to Moore couldn’t keep their hands off the human figure. There is a tactile quality to skin — whether it has the silken gleam of white marble in Maria Francesca Scaroni or Jess Curtis’ scuffed cragginess — that is irresistible. Given how hard these two dancers work, olfactory sensations also become integral to this latest version of an extraordinarily compelling investigation of how we perceive each other and ourselves.

Symmetry premiered last year. Now it is less monochromatic and even hints at an emotional trajectory — from the animalistic to the über-civilized. Is this an improvement? Probably, it adds new forms of inquiry. Does it make the work more theatrically accessible? Yes. Should you go and see it? Yes. Symmetry is brainy, sensuous, and asks important questions.

Mostly Symmetry is performed in the nude. The dancers at first shed false skins, i.e. fur coats, only to reinhabit them later in the form of evening wear. Though improvised, the work adheres to a strict concept: symmetry — balance, complementarities, and stability — as a physical reality. It could have been as deadly as looking at rows of cabbages or graph paper. But in Scaroni and Curtis’ bodies, both alone and together, Symmetry becomes a vibrating, pulsating state of presence by what they call an "inter-corporeal kaleidoscope of flesh."

The piece moves from a sculptural and placid connectedness to a fragmentary and volatile one (think electroshock) to Cabaret-style isolation within togetherness. In the first part it’s strong buttocks; sensitive hands and astoundingly interlocking body parts are particularly compelling. In a grand coup, Symmetry ends with Scaroni rocking on her heels and looking into the black hole of her vagina. Did she see just a kaleidoscope of flesh?

Composer Klaus Janek’s subtle underpinnings — especially the breathing section — were beautifully responsive to the dancers’ needs. (Rita Felciano)


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