Review: Dylan Crossman, Tara O’Con and Stacy Grossfield at Roulette

FEB. 12, 2014

The performing arts space of Roulette in Brooklyn appears only sporadically on the dance calendar. This week, however, its DanceRoulette season presents a different anthology of new pieces each evening.

All three of the works presented on Tuesday — together, they lasted an hour — made use of several areas of the handsome space: the central floor of the refurbished Art Deco theater, (seating was on its peripheries); two levels of the stage; and, in one case, the balcony. All three proved baffling, but I have no problem with that. We go to see new pieces by new artists in the hope that our minds will be taken where they’ve never been before. What was remarkable was how one of the three, Dylan Crossman’s “Every Me Sees Thou a Little Differently,” was never even briefly boring: you couldn’t comprehend it, but it made you want to.

Since Tara O’Con’s “Frame” is described as a work in progress, I will withhold comment. Stacy Grossfield’s “Fur & Tulle” was danced by three young women — Natalie Green, Stacy Grossfield, and Rebecca Warner — and was “inspired by works and beliefs of Marcel Duchamp, Andrzej Zulawski and Anaïs Nin.” It featured fur, tulle and nudity.

As it began, one woman, dressed in layers of tulle down to the hips, lay with her legs splayed apart. I assume this was a reference to the female shown in Duchamp’s “Étants Donnés”; I guess that her tulle veiling refers to the bride in Duchamp’s “Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.” Doubtless the rest of the audience was better able to spot the connections to Mr. Zulawski, Nin and indeed Duchamp than I.

The problem was not intellectual underpinning but weakness of structure. The dancer wearing fur did several striking movements, but their phrasing seldom held the attention, and her colleagues were yet less absorbing. At one point, a curtain of transparent plastic fell from an overhead balcony, forming a layer between the audience (the material touched those in the front row) and performers. During the sequence that followed, the least clothed of the three (wearing a helmet) kept approaching close to the corner where press seats were designated. (This seemed unfair to the viewers in other sections, who probably see considerably less stage nudity than I, the only member of the press present on Tuesday, do.)

In “Every Me,” Mr. Crossman, a dancer in the Merce Cunningham and Pam Tanowitz troupes, performed with Sumi Clements and Jason Collins. They spoke (into microphones), sat and danced. Some spoken material — we heard about Sumi, Jason and “Dylan and Dylan and Dylan” — seemed about the performers. Though it may have been fictional, it had a confessional force, and yet was coolly, objectively delivered.

When dancing, they were sometimes a trio in unison, sometimes a couple and a soloist, and sometimes three individuals moving at close quarters with quite different dynamics. In one phrase, Mr. Crossman sailed across the stage in a soft string of formal jumps, his front foot flexed.

What was marvelous throughout was the rhythm. Each short section had metric vitality (one unison passage of footwork had a vaudeville quality). The frequent changes of pace and tone and non sequiturs turned “Every Me” into a collage where expressionism alternated with evasiveness.

These three performers had things to reveal about themselves — but they also kept needing to change the subject. At the end, they were more mysterious than they had been, but their mysteries were urgent and engaging.