REVIEW: Kimberly Bartosik/daela at Dance Place

Review: Kimberly Bartosik/daela at Dance Place

by Michelle Hayes

Kimberly Bartosik/daela provided a thought-provoking evening filled with raw human emotion and athleticism. Her medium was a video screening and live performance. As I walked into the Dance Place theater, I immediately became aware of three dancers in athletic wear, taking care of their bodies as they warmed up. One listened to music through earphones while the other two laid on their backs with their feet up along the back wall of the stage. They focused on warming up every body part as they mentally prepared for the performance. It was refreshing to see such precision and careful placement from each of the dancers. This occurrence brought me into their world right away.

Soon, Kimberly entered the space to begin her introduction, and the dancers left. Kimberly talked about the themes of the two pieces we were about to see and her inspiration for each of them. This approach took me by surprise; I like to develop my own thoughts and images as I watch a performance. However, after hearing the introduction, I appreciated seeing how Bartosik created movement to embody these questions and themes. I became hyper-aware of her choreographic craft and the emotional give-and-take from the performers. I was limited in finding a story in the piece for myself because I had been given that information before viewing. But I was able to see the connection from the choreographer’s words to her choreography on other bodies.

The first piece, “Etroits sonts les Vaissaux,” was a video screening inspired by “the ideas of scale” and going “deep, not broad” (Bartosik). Bartosik developed the concept while learning about the full cycle of  tides, which last for 24 hours and 50 minutes. Likewise, this piece lasted 24 minutes and 50 seconds.  

The screening began in a small, long space. The camera zoomed in on two people, a man and a woman walking toward each other. They were already out of breath. The performers seemed to be looking for each other, though it is unclear what they had just experienced. Bartosik wanted to convey that there had been something happening prior to the beginning of the performance. I was pushed to ask certain questions: Where are they coming from? What is their immediate relationship? The two dancers walked briskly in, out of, and around each other, creating the image of waves. There was a constant suspension and pull between the dancers and within their walks. The long time for which this section continued supported Bartosik’s “deep, not broad” concept. 

As the speed of the walks increased, so did the movement of the body. There were arms and legs slicing through the air. The performers shifted back and forth with quick feet. The camera work often focused on certain body parts of the dancers, such as feet or faces. We were not always given a full view of what was happening and  a dancer would occasionally move outside the screen. It was satisfying to not have to choose where to focus because I was drawn into this world through the focus of the camera. The video rotated around the room, which supported the feeling of a constantly moving ocean, a sloshing feeling.

The intimacy of the piece was inspired by Bartosik’s observation of her own father after her mother had passed away. Kimberly saw how her mother had served as an anchor for her father. As a result of the loss, her father suffered from vertigo, a sensation caused by an imbalance in the body. He had lost his anchor. Bartosik explored this concept through movement, asking questions about this emotional and physical response and about how to discover one’s own anchor.

As the walking slowed, the two dancers began shifting around each other. Although they were moving slowly, there was a constant strong energy through and between the dancers. There was a constant give and take. They never physically touched; instead, they placed an arm an inch from the other’s face, or a hand an inch from the other’s hand. Although it was intimate, I could feel the disconnect stemming from the fact that they did not actually touch. This was a very moving and emotional part of the piece.

“Ecsteriority4 (Part 2)” was not considered a political piece for Bartosik, but a question for the world about violence. Throughout the creative process she asked questions: What is the energy of violence? What happens in the body right before a violent act occurs? This piece was about discovering vulnerability and finding an emotional response to violence. Bartosik created the word “ecsteriority” by combining the words “exterior” and “ecstasy”.

The dancers walked in through the entrance of the theatre, breaking the fourth wall and inviting us into their experience. They walked casually  along the front row with a purpose as they observed each other and the space they were about to engulf.  Dressed in grays, blacks, and army green, they taped a black band around one of their arms. As they did this, the energy and adrenaline was emitted through their posture and facial expressions. All at once, they lined the front of the stage and entered a firm, striking and fast walk. This turned into a run toward the black wooden wall that was the back drop. They began slapping and whacking their arms, feet, legs, hands, and torso against the wall with angered force.

This piece was high energy, full force, and involved full body movement throughout the whole piece. A moment in the beginning that really drew me in involved Burr Johnson executing a phrase with sharp contractions and quick swiping of the legs and arms before running full force in a circle around the space. He did this a few times, causing the running to become a motif. Dylan Crossman and Jamie Scott moved in and out of each other’s space against the black wall while continuing the violent gestures. 

There was a power struggle evident between the three dancers wanting their voices to be heard via wide and far traveling phrases. One specific movement which conveyed this was a big side step in second position. The way that the dancers reached with every inch of their bodies was captivating. Contractions and releases of the head occurred throughout the piece, conveying frustration and angst. There were moments during which I thought the dancers were out of control because of their constant weight changing. They were emotionally dedicated to the essence of the violent themes. However, they were also able to beautifully and articulately control the out-of-control.

Throughout the piece, there was a tension between the space and the dancers’ bodies. This tension was encouraged by deep eye contact. There was a moment between Crossman and Scott that continued the tension and harshness in a more intimate way. Similar to the “Etroits sont les Vaisseaux,” they were creating shapes around each other without always physically touching. They exposed their necks outwardly and toward each other. Because of the tension and vulnerability of the gestures, it felt erotic. I overheard an audience member say that the piece had moments of the “erotic but didn’t stay there.”
The emotions that spilled out onto the stage for both pieces were raw, honest, and visceral. It was obvious that Bartosik had clear ideas for her work. The movement and dancers created an experience and emotional quality that words cannot exactly describe. There was a clear form and structure which showed an intriguing choreographic craft. Asking questions is an instrumental part of Kimberly Bartosik’s choreography. She left us with the concept of “asking a question (or many), not finding a point to be made.”