Let’s hear it for dancers! They can’t not dance. And they all have i-phones or the equivalent—and maybe obliging friends to operate these. However, I confess that after a while of sitting at my laptop watching, say, six performers dancing in their bedrooms, I can get too interested in the sites themselves. A lot of books! What pictures hang on their walls? Dig that cookstove.
But what if they’re outdoors on uneven ground, maybe even barefoot? A public park becomes their stage—maybe early in the morning when fewer people are offering their dogs on-camera debuts. Beth Soll and Abby Dias danced Soll’s Two Red Solos: A Formal Response in a park near the New York City’s Hudson River. Through the trees, you can glimpse cars speeding along, but are more likely to hear cicadas than vrooming engines. What makes the solos red is the costuming. Wearing outfits designed differently, the dancers create bright streaks against the greenness. Flames.
Soll choreographed separate solos for Dias and herself, although the two women share the same movements, ordered differently. She is also credited with the film’s direction and editing, along with its cinematographer, Ethan Mass.
What makes this duet especially interesting—even moving—are the subtle distinctions between the two performers. Hard to believe though it is, Soll is about fifty years older than Dias. If they raise both hands to frame their faces, or lean down to touch the ground, they seem like twins, but they approach certain larger moves in individual ways.
Sometimes they’re together in the verdant space and the camera’s eye; at other times, each occupies half of a split screen. Co-director Mass doesn’t keep his camera still either.
Maybe one woman seems to hasten into a close-up. Maybe one screen blacks out for a second. The dancers rush away and become tiny, or hurry toward us, becoming larger. Briefly the editors layer one moving image on top of another. Cuts occur. One half of the screen may briefly go dark.
I love watching Soll and Dias slip into unison and then slide out of it. They also move in canons with each other and, once, build a fugue. The image the two create is—almost—that of a friendship: they like being creative individually but enjoy coming together to confirm their amity. The differences between them are as interesting as the similarities.
The movement suits the landscape. Jumps, yes. Runs, yes. No leaps. No arabesques. The women spin, swing their arms, use their hands a lot (fingers pressed together). The ground is a friend. Caught in a pandemic, they remind us that they’re responsive to danger.
Another thing that intrigues me is how they see the vast space around them. Dias, a beautiful young woman, seems always to be looking into the distance, opening herself to it. Soll, more experienced, listens as she gazes. She watches her hand as she reaches out, studies something above her, meditates when she pauses.
Two red solos. The performers’ responses to the title may be formal, and the two of them never touch. but their simultaneous solos seethe with the implications of togetherness and isolation that at present shape our daily lives.