Captivating, exciting: YYDC in The Edge of 30 Degrees

Fishman Space, BAM Fisher, New York
May 30, 2019

David Mead

The Edge of 30 Degrees, an evening of two ensemble works and a duet, is centred around the concept of the passage of time, the span of a single hour on a clock face, explains YYDC artistic director and choreographer Yin Yue (乐音/樂音). “Whether in rehearsal or performance, you always find yourself marking time at the edge of 30º,” she says. It proved to be a super evening of dance that, should you wish, could be enjoyed simply as bodies in motion; an evening beautifully presented, and that culminates in the exciting and visceral Citizen.

First presented on a regular proscenium stage in Aachen, for BAM, Yue reworked the three pieces of The Edge of 30 Degrees to be presented in the round. It turned out to be not as easy as simply constantly changing facings, she told me, explaining that she found that movement then needed to be changed, which in turn meant the music needed to be tweaked. But she has done a remarkable job. Never do you get any hint of where the front may once have been.

The opening Stones and Kisses is inspired by ideas of physicist-philosopher Carlo Rovelli, particularly that time can be permanent and eternal (stones) or momentary and interactive (kisses). The first can be seen especially in the opening duet of almost constant physical contact and supports between Grace Whitworth and Omar Román De Jesús. It’s full of graceful twisting and turning, with some achingly deep backbends from her. Whitworth has a super, deep focus too. Although Román constantly watches his partner, she appears completely locked in her own world. It’s almost as though they are in different universes, the mood magnified by the chill wind heard in Juliane Jones and Doug Beiden’s score.

Stones and Kisses is nothing if not a dance of changing moods, though; and the odd surprise. The second duet, from Erika Choe and Lacey Baroch, is jazzy, fast-flowing and wreathed in smiles. When Zevallos is then joined by Román, things get noticeably darker as they prowl the space and come together like a pair of caged animals. Clocks get a reference in a dance for Whitworth and Choe in the form of an arm ticking round like a second hand. And later there’s an unexpected kiss between two of the women, firmly planted, before that wind returns. The dance may end, but the impression of very much that time does not.

In The Time Followed, a 10-minute duet, Yue and Whitworth shift constantly around one another to the ominous chords of Dutch experimental electronic musicians Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) and Sietse van Erve (Orphax). An arm sweeps and is caught. Limbs intertwine, lock, separate and reform in new and always interesting ways. When closely side by side the pair were as one body. Apart, they were perfectly together too, but in a different way. Always there was superb clarity of movement.

Best comes last, though. The closing Citizen bursts into life from the off. It’s just over 30 minutes of energetic, physically demanding and intense dance, always driven on by the frequently pulsing music of Jones and Beiden. It is truly non-stop, the ensemble eating up the space as the move forever around the stage in a reflection of today’s hectic, relentless world.

Every sequence runs effortlessly into the next. Every movement is the starting point for the next. They flow into one another with ease. If something is interrupted or punctuated it’s because it is meant to be. Babara Erin Delo’s baggy costumes with soft legwear that hint at boots but that are actually socks, are a perfect compliment.

The dance is loaded with pulse, drop and flow, all elements of what Yue calls ‘FoCo Technique‘. It has lovely texture. At times, it’s reminiscent of Hofesh Shechter at his best, but the root of Yue’s movement clearly comes from her own background (she trained in Chinese classical and folk dance, and classical ballet in Shanghai, following up her degree from the Shanghai Normal University with a MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts). I am certain that I saw hints of Chinese folk dance, and indeed heard hints of Chinese music in the score too, but it’s all incorporated so seamlessly that it fits like a glove. Again, it’s the limbs that take the eye. They wave and sweep in all directions. It’s never just arms, it’s shoulders and the whole upper body.

In one solo from Yue, it feels like every part of her body is on the move. Hips shift, joints isolate, limbs fold in and out, a hand strokes her body. There are duets too, most noticeably one for Yue and Zevallos that happens mostly on the floor. It’s full of rolling and more folding, but also of momentary pauses that let you savour the moment.

Yin Yue is a new choreographer to me, but she left me wanting to see more. Impressive choreography, yes, but impressive dancers too. Full of power and precision, their commitment and stamina is huge. Dance and dancers that captivate, that excite. You can’t ask for more than that.