Dover Beach – Sarah Michelson


A cinematic exercise in distractions from dance? I though the piece was wondrously cinematic. The lighting design and the set and the amazing score came together for something baroque and grand. But I had a hard time focusing on the movement so much of the other stuff was vying for my attention.

Starting with the giant green neon casting a sickly light on everything, and the lattice work both blocking my view and casting strong shadows so much so that I knew very little of what was happening behind there. What about the X of lights and the center piece of the left half of the stage – a pair of squeaky pin wheels endlessly turning with some par cans attached to them, going round and round and round and round. Was there dancing oh yes, but I was admiring the whole and not focusing on the movement in particular.

A horse-head clad dancer appeared and disappeared and sent some laughter through the audience. The lighting kept shifting and the sound kept morphing from lyrical to pure noise even to moments that made the walls shake, a lot of the score created by live musicians within the space.

Eventually Sarah’s trademark make the audience annoyed/uncomfortable lights came on, this time from behind, and a few moments later silence ensued. I could finally focus on the dance. I found Michelson’s movement vocabulary exciting to watch, and was thrilled to be able to finally focus on it so clearly, though the silence and harsh lighting made more than one audience member squirm a little in their seats. Eventually the score and the more normal lighting returned and the cinematic grand qualities took over again.

The piece ended with another element I would call a Michelson trademark, the is this over, or will there be a second act after more than half of the audience manages to leave? Oh, and is that unattended running smart car parked outside part of the piece? no, not this time. I don’t think.

This piece seemed less experimental, more polished, formal and grand. It didn’t feel immediate to me but fully finished and presentational. So much so that I am afraid it might be mistaken by some people as high art pretentiousness instead of the genuine inquiry and experimentation that it is.

June 9 – June 13
The Kitchen
New York, NY