Liz Gerring is not a particularly prolific choreographer, nor a particularly varied one, but what she does, she does extremely well. And that is create pieces in which she glorifies movement, presenting it to the viewer with the avidity and fascination of a polar explorer. Her dances may be spare – she doesn’t go in for complicated designs or music – but they certainly don’t feel dry. They teem with energy and life.
Horizon, which premiered in 2015 at Montclair State University, and is being performed for the first time in New York this week, takes this propensity of Gerring’s to a new level. She is a choreographer in love with movement and endowed with a fertile movement imagination. The seven performers fill the stage, coming and going like the tides, doing their own thing or momentarily joining into each other’s flow. The choreography is constantly surprising. A dancer enters the stage by tilting forward from the wings, falling, rising, jumping, all seemingly in one breath. Another balances on one leg and then arcs his back extravagantly backward. Dancers roll across the stage, slicing their arms like blades in a windmill. Gerring comes up with six or seven ways for people to propel themselves backwards, each of them seemingly as natural as breathing.
Then there are the movements that suggest other things: an arm thrust forward as if propelling a bowling ball; hip hop arms moving vaguely to a beat; yoga-esque warrior poses; a gliding crouch, like a chimpanzee swinging itself across the jungle floor. Two women suddenly sway their hips, as if dancing the lambada. Though the tone is impassive, it’s clear that Gerring has a sense of humor, that there is pleasure in this exploration of the body’s ability to move through space, bend, balance, tilt.
All this takes place on a clean, coolly lit stage, with a horizon line projected onto a white backdrop, a white overhang (by Robert Wierzel) enclosing the space. The costumes, by Liz Prince, are eclectic and bright: a yellow romper, a bright red body-stocking, bronze lamé hotpants with a flowery top. This look is soothing and pleasurable to the eye and the brain, and complements the movement without getting in the way. The music, an electronic soundscore by Michael J. Schumacher that incorporates found sounds and distorted voices, is unobtrusive. The dancers, too, perform with vigor and lushness – the pleasure-in-movement is shared among the cast and with the audience. Strong performers all, and strikingly different from each other. Brandon Collwes, gentle and grave, particularly compelling in stillness. Forrest Hersey sprightly, elastic. Claire Westby dramatic, lush. Jamie Scott efficient, crisp, wry.
If there is one criticism, it might be that it all falls too easily on the eye. Gripping from moment to moment, it nevertheless lacks a certain tension that might make it resonate more deeply once the curtain falls. And yet, there is something salutary about this deep dive into the heart of human locomotion. The body, Gerring shows us, is a marvel.