Cubism: Jonah Bokaer inside the white cube of the black box of the white cube of the museum

My Financial Times review of the choreographer’s dance with Judith Sanchez Ruiz and a large white cube, going on right now! at the New Museum on the Bowery:

It is a truism that visual art favours dispassion, while theatre and dance, being live and peopled, stir up sentiment. But in Replica, by Jonah Bokaer – a luminous Cunningham dancer for eight years (beginning at the tender age of 18) and now a conceptually savvy choreographer – the pathos stems from a cube.

The hour-long dance (repeating tonight and tomorrow at the New Museum and in Paris, Marseille and Moscow this spring) takes place on film and stage, sometimes at once. After Bokaer and Judith Sanchez Ruiz of the Trisha Brown company have stacked themselves on their sides like two undulating jigsaw pieces, a prĂ©cis of the dance to come unfolds in grainy black-and-white film on a large, fissured white cube: set designer Daniel Arsham smashes a hole in a wall and the two lithe dancers crawl in, except the film runs backwards, so they seem to hatch from the hole and Arsham seems to be violently repairing it – a more hopeful tale. In real time, only the steps, not the drama, occasionally rewind, with Bokaer and Sanchez Ruiz dancing in bunched-up fashion like a mind plotting the route to a future it can imagine from a present it cannot.


Jonah Bokaer and Judith Sanchez Ruiz silhouetted against the fissured white cube. Photo by Michael Hart. 

The choreography is a geometry of planes and angles. The movement emanates from highly articulate and independent joints – neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, ankle. When Bokaer and Sanchez Ruiz dance close, they maintain this gawky precision. They don’t move cheek to cheek so much as collarbone bumped against collarbone. They touch in places that spark no immediate associations: bony protuberance of hip, length of neck, just above the bulge of calf. “Does this count as tender?” you may wonder before remembering how rare it is for touch to be neutral.

But when the film returns…..

For the whole thing, click here.

P.S. Here’s the whole of the last sentence, which was somewhat trimmed for space reasons (bold for trimmed part): “The meta-issues Replica plays with – art emerging from the white cube (of the art museum, nudge, nudge) into the black box of the theatre; dance busting out of its frame – seem inconsequential beside steps that are still singular but now also precious, like a love affair you’ll never be able to make sense of to anyone except maybe yourself.” I can’t decide if I like it whole or if it’s too much–too much explaining.

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