BLACK VELVET, ARCHITECTURES, AND ARCHETYPES a beautiful title for an effective and sometimes fraught dance performance. There was a lot of drama preceding the performance of this piece. It began a little late, and while the audience waited outside the theater we were warned not to take pictures, shut off our phones, adding a reminder that no one is allowed in or out of the theater after the performance began — due to the sensitive nature of the work. This felt a bit like waiting on line for a great secret to unfold; it also felt like hyperbole.
On entering the very delicate sound of bells dinged like little starbursts and set up the environment in the theater for the excellent Brazilian born dancer Mirelle Martins. She was standing on a ladder covered from the waist down with a black cloth draped into a floor-length skirt. She was very tall and had an air of otherworldliness, as she seemed to rock an imaginary baby in her arms to and fro in quiet meditation. She was naked from the waist up and had the look of a majestic ancient goddess since she was bathed in gold make-up, which made her sultry dark skin gleam as if she was standing in the moonlight. Then Shamel Pitts, an expert of Gaga; a focused and highly specialized technique of dance made famous by the unique Israeli dance company Batsheva appeared. He was superb in so many ways. His body control and ability to master spasmodic and fluid movement were evident in all the choices he made. Mr. Pitts is as subtle as a blade of grass blowing gently in the wind and then in a moment, a tornado sweeping up everything in its path. He is no less a fabulous machine sputtering, and then excelling in what seems impossibly fast motion like an old silent movie out of sync. Mr. Pitts and Ms. Martins captivated the audience with all that they gave through their bodies from their souls.
Black Velvet, choreographed by Mr. Pitts, is about the many phases and nuances of relationships. Connections of all forms; for the other, for oneself and in the context of society and history. However, successful on so many levels, it was also flawed by trying to be too much in too many different instances. Strategic light projections by Lucca Del Carlo were followed by using too many different pieces of music, flashing, or strobe lighting that is hard to look at and became blinding enough that along with many others in the audience, I turned my head away until the segment concluded. There were times Mr. Pitt’s eyes lit up in terror while Ms. Martins incongruously were entirely placid which seemed in conflict with their objective. There were times when spoken word by the performers is used to further elucidate on the context of the imagery before us.
The piece itself was confusing like a painting with competing patterns and themes that seem not completely actualized into a cohesive portrayal for the intended effect.
I look forward to seeing more of Mr. Pitts and Ms. Martins, they are both marvelous to watch, but I believe this work needs to be streamlined for the sake of fluidity, comprehension, and pacing. Black Velvet is lovely and robust; nevertheless, the canvas needs some space and focus.