Bounce and Pounce in a Zany Evening, Channeling Singers
Sometimes it’s best to start with a song and add a few steps. David Zambrano has done that and more in “Soul Project,” an enthralling evening of visceral solos set to soul music.
The work, first performed on Thursday night at Danspace Project, served to introduce Platforms 2010, an artist-organized series conceived by the space’s executive director, Judy Hussie-Taylor, in an attempt to widen the scope of dance presentation. Mr. Zambrano is part of “i get lost,” organized by Ralph Lemon, which focuses on transformation, transcendence, transgression and trance.
“Soul Project” is a welcome return for Mr. Zambrano, a treasured improviser and teacher who lived in New York in the 1980s and early ’90s and is now based in Amsterdam. Infusing the evening with his usual joviality, Mr. Zambrano appeared in an African-print suit with tails and explained the evening’s structure as audience members gathered around. Viewers were encouraged to get close to the cast as it performed, he said, “solo after solo after solo.”
He was interrupted by a shriek; Edivaldo Ernesto, a slender, elastic dancer from Mozambique, began moving in a solo almost violent in its ferocity. He slammed his feet on the floor, twisted his arms like unruly branches and interrupted the silence with the occasional anguished wail, “It’s my heart!” (This reference became clear later, when he danced a solo to Bola De Nieve’s “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.”) Just as quickly as it began, it was over.
“This is an example,” Mr. Zambrano said, with a twinkle in his eye, “of the solos.”
As dancers performed under spotlights, wearing flamboyant costumes by Mat Voorter in collaboration with Pepa Martinez, the intention was clear: to match the voice of the singer with a body language so deep and spontaneous that the performer seemed to be drawing energy from the floor. In his program notes Mr. Zambrano writes that the process is about “Being continuously alive. On, like a candle.”
Nina Fajdiga, in a polka-dot dress adorned with pompoms, dropped into a split (a nod to James Brown?) to Aretha Franklin’s “Misty.” Milan Herich, stripped to the waist, hopped from one foot to the other — grinning crazily as he reached a dangerous speed — accompanied by “At Last,” sung by Stevie Nicks.
In “I Don’t Like Goodbyes/Over the Rainbow” by Patti LaBelle, Peter Jasko, dressed in a blue bodysuit with gold-sequined trim (and matching eyelashes), repeatedly collapsed and rose with the resiliency of a rubber ball. And the mesmerizing Horacio Macuacua, dancing to “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Baby Huey, moved with a grounded forcefulness as he fixed his gaze on an invisible point above the crowd.
Throughout, Mr. Zambrano was a calmer presence. With his uncanny sense of weight and instinctive pounce, he seemed to savor the music. The audience, following the dancers with unusual dexterity, remained still and receptive during the performances: the goal, on our end, was to do anything to prevent the flames from burning out.
“Soul Project” continues through Saturday at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street, East Village;
(866) 811-4111, danspaceproject.org.