Emily Hoffman on the broken patterns in William Forsythe’s Sider, a work that conjures and contends with Elizabethan tragedy.
In contemporary dance, a certain degree of inscrutability can be expected. It comes with the territory of a non-narrative art.
But there are moments when inscrutability can feel exciting, and there are those when it can feel repellant. One feels ejected from the dance; the cost of watching outstrips the possible rewards. My experience of watching William Forsythe’s Sider, for all its conceptual complexity and rigor, felt more like the latter.
In a new staging of Amiri Baraka’s one-act play, the audience and performers alike are tasked with endurance.
In theory, it’s an easy sell: Amiri Baraka’s legendary 1964 play Dutchman, a tense conversation between a black man and a white woman in a sweltering subway car, “reimagined” for the saunas of the Russian & Turkish Baths on East 10th street. The major difficulty of Baraka’s one-act is how to get it to build so steeply to its near surreal conclusion (the white woman stabs the black man). Rashid Johnson, a visual artist by training, proposes heat.
So literal a solution is intriguing. If the heat of the subway car is, in some large part, what is driving the action of the play, why not make the heat real? What kind of new possibilities arise when the onus to create an environment is taken off the performers? This is where the difficulty begins. Even with the heat, the performers Johnson has selected cannot carry the piece.