by Burt Supree
At Downtown Art Co.
At the Downtown Art Co. on East 4th Street, there's not much leeway on the square stage: brick walls press directly on its sides. It feels as exposed as a boxing ring. This works fine for Up, the newest and most tightly wrought of four works presented by Hilary Easton. Set to music by David Van Teighem, Up is a dance for two couples--Nancy Sakamoto, Scot Willingham, Eric Diamond and Barrie Raffel--in changing combinations. Concerned with pulling and shoving, obstinancy and persistance, bolstering and collapsing, it starts out as a kind of nagging exercise in willfulness, but quickly forges indissoluble links of physical obligation, and becomes inevitable without becoming predictable.
Willingham and Sakamoto are up first, while the second couple rests agains a wall. Pushing, pressing, clutching, tumbling, moving in and out of sync with a sinewy elasticity, they're tough and reluctant. Periodically, they try to involve Diamond and Raffel by pulling them, or yanking them on by the legs, but, initially these maneuvers fail against the pair's soft, slippery resistance.
I like this dance's muscular coils, the cold-eyed formality of its structure. When Willingham and Sakamoto finally draw the others in, the dance becomes a slowly snowballing business of grappling and collapsing, of briefly resting, of bolstering partners who deflate and give way when left alone. Their entaglements get tougher, in the way a wad of gum gets denser and less pliable when chewed too long. These saggings and proppings and optimistic pulling-ups, these departures and separations that don't quite happen, know the dancers together and transform into grudging waves of surging energy that build into up-and-over-the-shoulder lifts. The sensuous, recalcitrant, even sullen style of the interactions have a weird, caring charm, a kind of blunt responsibility, a quality of commitment that is unquestioned. Maybe it's too much of a stretch, but I wonder if, in coping with the sufferings of friends with AIDS, we've learned not to let go of one another lightly. We may hate the reasons why we are so bound together, but the necessity of hanging together is undeniable.