Macho Dancer Review from New York TImes

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Transforming Movements

Room 100 and Eisa Jocson at Queer New York Arts Festival


Published: November 1, 2013

What does “queer performance” mean? In the second edition of the Queer New York International Arts Festival, the notion of queer relates not only to gender and identity, but also falls under the bigger umbrella of otherness. Programmed by André von Ah (who died in September) and Zvonimir Dobrovic, the event offers a look at artists working in anomalous, eccentric and even otherworldly forms.

On Wednesday at the Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement, the festival continued with performances by Room 100, a Croatian company formed by Jakov Labrovic and Antonia Kuzmanic, and Eisa Jocson, a choreographer and dancer from the Philippines. The first, Room 100’s “C8H11NO2,” was created as a duet, but visa problems prevented Mr. Labrovic from traveling, and the piece was reworked as a solo.

Named after the formula for dopamine, “C8H11NO2” begins with an interview on film with a man who describes multiple stays at psychiatric hospitals. As he talks about being thrown in isolation, how many days he was tied up (42) and the side effects of his medication, his hands tremble uncontrollably.

Moments later, Mr. Labrovic appears on video, too. With his back to us, he slowly contorts his shoulders, rounding his scapula forward and backward so it appears that faces — of monsters, of animals — are fighting their way through his glistening skin. The film is also reflected in a pool of water that sits on the stage, mirroring and multiplying the ominous images.

Ms. Kuzmanic, in the flesh, stretches on her side next to the pool, hiding her face to look disembodied. Every stretch of a leg or an arm is duplicated in the water so that she, like Mr. Labrovic, transforms into multiple creatures. Is this a corporeal rendering of schizophrenia, what is real, and what is not?

In “Macho Dancer,” Ms. Jocson explores pole dancing by raising her own questions about the role of gender in a dance style performed by young men in nightclubs in the Philippines. This brand of dance exists on the fine line between power and weakness. Along with the image of a strong male body, objectification is at play.

But Ms. Jocson adds another layer as she is transformed into a macho dancer herself: Her strong body teases the crowd with leather shorts and steel-toe boots that stomp heavily on the raised platform stage.

As a woman portraying a seductive male dancer, she is hauntingly accurate. Ms. Jocson’s androgynous beauty, paired with the control she uses to undulate her torso or to spin forward on a knee, is stunning; even while grinding on the floor, she never forsakes her taut, calculated tension.

All the same, the repetition of her slipping in and out of fog while stark lights envelope her in a hazy silhouette wears you down. As the lights finally dim, and George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” fills the space with the lyrics “I’m never going to dance again/guilty feet have got no rhythm,” it seems tragic for all the wrong reasons. She dances with her shadow.

The Queer New York International Arts Festival runs through Sunday at various locations;