Two dancers attached, unattached
The central visual focus in “The Untitled Still Life Collection,’’ a collaboration between choreographer-dancer Trajal Harrell and visual artist Sarah Sze, is a thin blue line that serves as a very active little metaphor. Actually, it’s two thin blue lines, roughly 7-foot-long strings of azure yarn that Harrell and fellow dancer Christina Vasileiou cut to begin the 20-minute work, which was given its world premiere Thursday in an intimate gallery of the Institute of Contemporary Art.
As the two perch on low stools, facing one another yards apart, the strings are both tenuous connections and tethers. The dancers raise, lower, and cross the two strings, giving dimension to the straight line in space. The slackening of the strings offers a palpable release of tension.
Slowly the performers reel each other in, wrists curling, gathering yarn until they are face to face, almost touching. When Harrell drops his ends of the yarn, Vasileiou wraps both pieces around his shoulders. The two undulate in place, and Vasileiou unwraps and awkwardly disentangles the strands. They run in circles, then return to sit on the stools, leaning back precariously, balancing the lines on legs and feet.
A “Lady and the Tramp’’ moment finds the two nearly kissing as tongues and lips draw the yarn into their mouths, like the Disney film’s ever-shortening piece of spaghetti. It suggests an undercurrent of exploration and play, but the mood remains somber throughout. The taped music, a mishmash ranging from Schubert to new age meandering, is merely background.
The work effectively embodies the ICA’s current “Dance/Draw’’ exhibit, which seeks to trace the drawn line from paper to three-dimensional space. Ultimately, however, “The Untitled Still Life Collection’’ is more intriguing conceptually than engaging in the moment. The visual element is underwhelming. The movement is rudimentary and the string itself is sometimes difficult to see, given its thinness against the busy backdrop of gallery walls. And if there was a provocative statement being made, I missed it.
“The Untitled Still Life Collection’’ will be performed again tomorrow; performances originally scheduled for today have been canceled. The workwas commissioned and presented as part of Co Lab: Process + Performance, the museum’s joint project with Summer Stages Dance at Concord Academy. As such, it provided a unique opportunity for two artists in different mediums, friends for 20 years, to test the boundaries of one art form within the context of another. For the audience, the privilege is being let in on the process of exploration.
Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.