"Split" Darkly Lights Up Chocolate Factory

This past Saturday, David and my Mista friend, Mista Suzy from the dog park, wizzed over to Long Island City in David's rental car to catch the final show of "Split," the debut performance by the new modern dance troupe Skove Works, which happens to be the love child of my brother's fiance, Lily Skove!

Forty-five minutes of straight dance? No intermission? No problem! It was a perfect dose of intense pieces of light, body movement, and the relationship between bodies together and bodies apart. Then again, all of Lily's works of art performed at the Chocolate Factory are this way, submerging you in some one's moment that blinks into forty-five.

Split offered the added bonus of again featuring a lighting design by my brother, TJ Hellmuth, adding this to the list of their collaborations. What a lucky team to be able to express themselves together in art, professions, and in love.

The Saturday night show was sold out. Mista Suzy and I sat on a cushion on the floor in front of the black performance area that is normally a white garage. The lights went to pitch dark, and the dancers filed in, some stepping on us because we were so close to the stage. The lights came on from the wings, but only pointedly. Five dancers dressed in delicate white camisoles for the three women and button down shirts for the two men spun and flew themselves around the stage in between the few beams of light, like lightening bugs or polka dots, mesmerizing the audience immediately as they disappeared into the deep black of the back of the stage.

Lights came up a bit as we watched a pixie but mighty woman/girl dance with a slender young man, who, with the other male dancer, was to lead the three women in several dances when the women weren't dancing on their own or together. At first we wondered about the relationship between the first male/female pair: rough lust...denial...abuse...? Their facial expressions were so blank, so washed of any expression, that their eyes almost looked sad and depleted. As the dance continued, rolling in and out of fused wrestling moves and other inspirations, what I mistook for roughness was actually in this reviewer's opinion, the physical strength required of the man to lift the pixie woman from the ground with his leg, into his arm, where she was to fall to the side, supported only by his hand under her neck, a move that was to be repeated by several combinations of the five dancers.

The two men danced together, and again our minds went to the sexual - to watch the relationship of two men dancing their relationship. But again we were mistaken. We watched two closely figured men weave in and out of their moves, and the more I watched, the more perfect and beautiful it became. They were actually my favorite dance because their sameness created a fluidity that was not matched by the other male/female or female/female pairs.

The most important take-away from the performance was watching the dancers use their body parts in ways that I only know from dreams and memories. If a dancing pair flung into a seated position on the ground, and the man's torso and arms were used to balance a curled woman from his neck onto the floor, then his feet hooked onto her from the inside - not a pointed toe or obvious grip - to move her. It was a perfect example of how you use your body parts without realizing it, and for people who don't dance, we really don't realize how much we use an arm muscle until it's injured.

The foot grab left a deja vou impression on me, and I resigned to the fact that my memory of using my foot as a hook or some other efficient way was lost in my mind. But the next morning as I was making my bed, I had leaned onto the bed to pull the quilt from between the wall, and as I did that, my foot had hooked on the other side of the mattress to balance me. And then I remembered, that this is a move I in fact do (almost) every morning when I make the bed. And as a child, when I climbed trees, my feet hooked on branches as I hung upside-down and pulled and twisted myself into a sitting position on a bottom branch. And in fact, I spin on my heel in the kitchen while cooking as I switch between counters, the sink, and throwing things into the trash in my own little night-time dinner dance.

Expect more from the young Skove Works. The collaborations with lighting designer TJ Hellmuth will add a mysterious depth that is his specialty. Whether he is working with animated clay in a dingy ally made up of foam core and black chalk for windows and dirt marks, or whether he is lighting animated chairs for a enchanted tea party in the mind of an ailing woman in her dementia in Lily's prior art piece in January '07, his signature lighting designs will always surprise and be the perfect seasoning as you ponder the show for hours or days afterward.

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