Beth Gill: Brand New Sidewalk


Wednesday, June 28

Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham

Beth Gill creates choreographic moments that slip away from easy categorization. She’s known for minimalist structures that foreground form; her dances resemble moving sculptures. She won a prestigious Bessie Award for her 2011 work, Electric Midwife, a piece performed by two trios of women who mirror one another’s movements, creating a symmetrical image.

Gill’s ADF-commissioned Brand New Sidewalk also plays with threes. The triptych begins with Danielle Goldman, alone onstage and seriously bundled. The dance proceeds as Goldman gradually removes layers of wintry clothing. (Frequent collaborator Baille Younkman designed the striking costumes, and what the dancers do with them is work’s centerpiece.) As Goldman discards a layer or reincorporates it into her outfit, she’ll pause, stretching a shirt over her head like an archer or crowding her legs under a blue cloth. Her manipulation of the clothing creates weird architecture, bulbous and otherworldly.

Between each of the work’s three sections, there are long pauses in which the curtain closes and the score, composed by Jon Moniaci and performed by members of Brooklyn’s TILT Brass, swells, sometimes too loudly. When Kevin Boateng and Joyce Edwards enter after Goldman’s solo, the stage has changed; an outlined square on the floor and scrim are submerged in a greenish-blue light. They wear identical white hooded tunics and pants. I thought of Samuel Beckett’s television play, Quad, in which four cloaked performers walk the perimeters and diagonals of a square, minding their own pathways.

Boateng and Edwards mind their own movements, too, but they move, impressively, in almost perfect synchronicity. Late in their duet, between the catch-steps, skips, and slides, they remove their hoods. Brand New Sidewalk is a dance of endless reveal. In the final solo, Maggie Cloud, wrapped in pieces of off-white and sand-colored netting, travels the stage in miniscule lunges. As soon as she begins moving, tufts of her costume float away. Toward the end, Cloud has removed her headpiece, like Boateng and Edwards. The warm stage lights dim and a spotlight stalls her at the front of the stage, like a moth hugging a light bulb.

Any of these unveilings could be a natural endpoint, but Gill’s dancers press on, moving with intentions we can’t quite discern. For the duration of this dance, we’re immersed in their worlds; we watch as they approach their own abstractions. Their internal energy is what pulses and remains: when Cloud moves away from the front, she pokes, grabs, and fidgets along stage left, as if removing fixtures from an invisible wall.