Gallim's mindblowing Blush ends DanceHouse season with a big indie-cool bang
A Gallim Dance production. A DanceHouse presentation. At the Playhouse on Friday, March 23. Continues March 24
How often does a dance show make you want to rush home, crank up the Wolf Parade, and shake your ass off?
That rock-concert-like, exhilarating high comes courtesy of Gallim Dance’s Blush—the cool, no-holds-barred show from New York that closes out DanceHouse’s season with a mindblowing bang.
Choreographer Andrea Miller says she was inspired to create the work after seeing a woman dancing, joyously and uninhibited, at a David Byrne concert. She's been able to tap that same kind of unfettered emotion and explosive movement with her crack team of dancers—Mario Bermudez Gil, Caroline Fermin, Troy Ogilvie, Dan Walczak, Jonathan Windham, and Arika Yamada.
It helps that Miller spent a few years at Israel’s influential Batsheva Dance, where artists learn to pull movement out of their very core. But Blush also feels very New York and very here-and-now. The white-powdered dancers wear sleek black, with matching S&M-style straps around their feet and their hair pulled up into samarai-like buns. As well as butoh and contemporary, there are glimpses of the mosh pit and punk rock here. Miller graduated from the Juilliard School only five or six years ago, and this is dance that speaks to the indie generation—but never pretentiously so.
The soundtrack ranges from skittering electrobeats to Frederic Chopin to, in the final adrenalized free-for-all, Wolf Parade’s off-kilter, soaring anti-pop anthem “I’ll Believe in Anything.” The emotional journey is just as diverse, from achingly beautiful moments to raucous, triumphant highs.
As for the choreography, it is inspiringly unique and unexpected, switching between the glacial and butohlike, with limbs bending in ways they shouldn’t, to the explosive: arms suddenly windmill violently at warp speed, or a woman starts headbanging around the stage. The partnering is bizarre and arresting. Two men run in circles between dim spotlights, covering each other’s eyes; a man holds a woman sideways as her legs piston like a gazelle’s; a woman runs and tumbles, landing upside down in a man’s arms. Later, two men swing a woman, arched and belly-down, like she might fly out into the audience if they let go. It’s all very abstract, but easy to get a handle on: these are humans struggling to connect, through moments of tenderness and confrontation. The movement is loose yet precise and skittery, with the dancers clearly displaying technical chops beneath all the flailing and moshing.
The performers are dancing their hearts out. The physical toll is viscerally apparent, as the white paint they wear smudges and streaks off as they convulse and collide. Blush reaches its zenith in its final section, when the stage turns into a sort of club and the troupe connects, finally, as a tribe. Have you ever seen someone ecstatically lose themselves in a song, letting go, and having their friends stop to watch, catching them in the act? That’s what this sequence looks like, over and over, and it drew wild applause from the audience.
Miller has somehow captured what it’s like to be young and alive and free, and the feeling will stay with you for days.