What would you do should you one day find yourself stuck with a member of the opposite sex on a raft floating out at sea, with no visible rations or other means of survival? If you are Carlye Eckert and John Sorensen-Jolink, the answer is apparently to thrash about a lot both in and out of the water (a good way to attract sharks, mind you) and perform a set of handstands and sometimes wonderfully eclectic movements as your partner lies sprawled on the raft and vice versa. The 50-minute RescYou (needlessly subtitled Stranded in a Life Raft in a Vast Ocean Beyond Time) starts off prosaically with the two dancers standing still at each other's side before they begin to walk and then sprint around in a circle surrounding the raft. The piece takes full advantage of Judson Memorial Church's soaring architecture and its rounded arches and stunning bay window, which parallel the raft's circular shape, in a subtle visual mise en abyme or geometric play that even the most exacting Inca architect would admire.
Having attended Juilliard and NYU respectively, Carlye and Sorensen's technique is steeped in the modernist styles still being taught in these two hallowed institutions of dance: truncated arm and leg movements, half lifts, counterclockwise arm movements and sometimes odd-looking leg extensions abound. Each movement they perform, however, is done with precision down to the stress in their shoulders and their often purposefully bent limbs. Artists in Residence at Judson Church since April 2011, the two have performed with reputable companies: she with Jonah Bokaer, Aszure & Artists and Keigwin & Company; he with the Lucinda Childs Company, John Jasperse Company and Twyla Tharp.
They are a fun duo to watch, as they perform (un)dressed in exercise togs of different colors, most notably yellow dayglo unitards and asymmetrical blood-red tops. The two seem fearless as they splash about in the ocean. Finally, after a good half hour spent pursuing and just plain old ignoring each other, they actually butt up against their backsides and begin to really interact, grabbing hold of each other and coming together in various sundry and romantic ways.
It's hard to explain why some contemporary dance pieces bore one to tears while others enchant. RescYou belongs more to the latter category than the former, though the piece begins to feel a little long towards the end of its 50-minute denouement. Part of RescYou 's success lies in what its own press release accurately terms "flawless execution," which includes a well-chosen soundtrack comprised of music by The Rachels, Four Tet, Loscil and Klimek. Loud screeching noise -- think John Cage on crack -- gives way to pleasant background music, bells jingling, then a dark thundering to announce a coming storm. Kudos go to lighting designer Miriam Crowe, technical director Chimmy Gunn and sound designer David Fishel: as with the movement itself nothing about these various elements is particularly revolutionary or innovative, but every element fits in just right to produce a well-executed whole that exceeds the sum of its creative parts.
I am pretty sure that if I were stuck on a raft at sea with a big strapping redhead like John Sorensen-Jolink, I would err on the side of caution and not rock the boat, so to speak. As wave after wave of movement unfurls, you want to scream out: steady Freddy, you're in the middle of the ocean on a dicey piece of plastic technology, for Pete's sake! And the dancers seem to read your mind. As the music winds down ("tick tock, tick tock) and the lights dim, the performers also begin to slow. But even that most subtle of movement strategies -- immobility -- may be all for naught: as the piece ends, the raft slowly deflates until nothing but a crushed plastic tarpaulin remains. Have they or the audience been rescued? Or was the point of the exercise the exercise itself? Stay tuned for answers to these fascinating questions and others, brought to you by the performance team of Eckert+ SorensenJolink.