Bobbi Jene Smith
Choreographer/dancer Bobbi Jene Smith (NYC) will create a new work drawing inspiration from the catastrophic and sublime machinations of geological forces to create an abstract and emotionally visceral narrative. Exploring the intersection of physicality, virtuosity, spatial poetry, and desire, this series of vignettes with live music brings together remarkable artists from around the world.
Leadership support for BAC has been provided by Altman Foundation, Anonymous, James H. Duffy, The Enoch Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Princess Grace Foundation-USA, Jerome Robbins Foundation, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, Thompson Family Foundation, and Dance/NYC’s New York City Dance Rehearsal Space Subsidy Program, made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Lead support of dance programming at BAC is provided by the Rudolf Nureyev Endowment.
Bobbi Jene Smith
Bobbi Jene Smith was born in Centerville, Iowa. From 2005-2014 she was a member of the Batsheva Dance Company under the artistic direction of Ohad Naharin.
She is an alumnus of the Juilliard School, North Carolina School of the Arts, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. Her choreography has been presented by The Batsheva Dance Company, CORPUS - The Dance Laboratory of the Royal Danish Ballet, The Martha Graham Dance Company, The Juilliard School, PS122 COIL Festival, A.R.T, The Israel Museum, Luminato Festival, LaMama, Sacramento Ballet, and UNC Chapel Hill. In 2017 she became a founding member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC). Smith’s film and video work includes Annihilation directed by Alex Garland, MA directed by Celia Rowlson-Hall, and Yossi directed by Eytan Fox. The documentary Bobbi Jene which follows Smith’s trajectory of leaving a dance company to create her own work, swept the Tribeca Film Festival, winning best documentary, best cinematography, and best editing in 2017. In 2018, Smith stars in and choreographed the feature films Mari directed by Georgia Parris, which premiered at BFI, and Aviva directed by Boaz Yakin. Smith has been a certified GAGA teacher for the past 13 years and has taught Ohad Naharin's repertory in schools and universities around the world. She is part-time faculty at the Juilliard School, and guest teaching at NYU and UArts.
BAC Story by Benedict Nguyen
Bobbi Jene Smith
In a rehearsal the previous weekend, Keir tried swiping his torso around the corner of his shoulder with more force than before, resulting in a buttery scratch of his violin. Was it a feeling of refusal or insistence? And was it those feelings and/or the velocity of a wooden chassis hurtling to an abrupt stop that produced that particular sound?
This line of questioning might sound in company with Bobbi Jene Smith’s A Study on Effort (“58: what does it mean for the bow to make sound with air?”) but within Lost Mountain, the line becomes a world and the impetus becomes a fraught relationship between people playing their bodies, playing instruments.
Keir GoGwilt plays Chaconne, the last movement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Partita Nº2 in D Minor. Partitas are instrumental solos structured after Baroque court dances from the 17th and 18th centuries. Of course, court dances are a European synonym for social dances, though one movement is called Sarabande, a triple-meter form with potential origins from Central America.
I include this light music and dance history interlude to suggest, perhaps too literally, how this somber piece of music carries with it the ghosts of music and dance forms unseen or heard by us, echoing its melancholy into this rootless mountain in which we find ourselves. This piece of music appeared in Keir and Bobbi’s previous collaboration With Care, and again, the putative premise of the work has altered its meaning.
At four corners of a rectangle, Ariel Freedman, Keir, Yiannis Logothetis, and Bobbi trace the edges of something at the center. To whom or for what do they dance? What drives the urgency of the solos they take in the floor’s center? Bobbi rushes to the edge of a harsh feeling only to seep into a serenity behind her eyes. Yiannis too searches for something behind himself, turning over himself in stillness as he covers his eyes with his palms. Ariel propels into a crawl, raises and drops each of her shoulders and hips in clockwise succession, the motion an excision or coagulation of something she was holding. In all the ways to describe what and how they express themselves, for themselves alone or to each other, this section evinces a determined order.
Something frenetic breathes through the intricate precision of the performers’ movements, an urgency in each twitch and circle rippling through the smaller swaths of their bodies.
Rehearsing a partnering section last week, Marla Phelan covers Evan Copeland’s eyes with her hands, the shifting forces of gravity applied to each other’s skulls readily discernible as they dart into the fleeting negative between them.
Some of the implied questions of narrative were addressed in a first-time collaboration with novelist Nicole Krauss, brought on since Lost Mountain’s May 2019 premiere at La Mama. In the showing, we’re not given any explicit outcomes from this collaboration. A monologue delivered by cellist Coleman Itzkoff remains, for now, as it was in May. In a thin, pinched voice, he tells us of an imminent cold front bringing ice and reduced visibility.
In last week’s rehearsal Nicole had asked the collaborators about surface level characteristics that Ravid Kahalani might know about Lost Mountain, revealing what he’d get wrong from not living there. Other collaborators brainstormed the story, the texture of the room, and the field they’d inhabit with a specificity they knew could never be fully revealed but would still be felt.
For Bobbi, one of the goals of this residency was to shape the work’s text as an entry point into the work. A new collaborator to the project, Ravid’s throaty vocalizations blended over dry synths sound like a wail cut through like a knife, serrated and ultimately smooth. I wonder how the history of his voice and the context of his music fold in at this stage of the work’s development?
I describe these sections out of the sequence they were performed but in the sequence of a discussion of Ravid’s character, the keeper of this mountain we’ve somehow returned to; time doesn’t seem to move in a linear fashion anyway.
Before the partita, before the weather report, before Ravid sang, the other performers had entered one by one: Ariel with a bouquet of purple flowers, Evan with a wooden board upon which he would tap dance. They stood at right angles to each other before Marta Miller entered from a corner on the audience side, regarding them all, regal.
In the concluding excerpt for this day, Jesse Kovarsky scales the barre running the perimeter of the room, ascends the edge where the studio’s two walls meld with vigorous aplomb. Evan dons the tap shoes and adds to the raucous tunes of Coleman and Ravid. They’re chasing something, maybe each other, maybe something not there. They confront and recede and even smile as the geometries of their flight paths veer and lightly collide. Marta considers them again, softly imperious. Finally, Marla, resigned, crawls to a wired still, the surface of her back collating something of this place in the ligaments beneath.
Benedict Nguyen is a dancer, writer, and curator based in the South Bronx, NY. Benedict has recently performed in the works of José Rivera Jr., Sally Silvers, and Monstah Black. Their writing has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, Culturebot, Dance Magazine, and Shondaland, among others. As the 2019 Suzanne Fiol Curatorial Fellow at ISSUE Project Room, they developed a multidisciplinary platform soft bodies in hard places. They're sometimes online @xbennyboo and compile essay-memes for their newsletter, first quarter moon slush.