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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ivy Baldwin Dance's Oxbow—A Visual Thriller

by Susan Yung

Oxbow. Photo: Andy Romer

Ivy Baldwin Dance, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, has history of seeking out intriguing artistic collaborators. For its two most recent works, artist Anna Schuleit created very different sets. In Ambient Cowboy (2012, New York Live Arts), she used high-intensity projections to delineate chambers on the floor, or interact with the dancers; in one case, a green squiggle of light seemed to entrap a prone dancer like a spiderweb. For Here Rests Peggy (2010, Chocolate Factory), Schuleit painted an expressionistic backdrop, which the dancers slammed against or leaned upon. Chloe Z Brown designed the sensitive and strategic lighting for both shows.

Here Rests Peggy at Chocolate Factory. Set by Anna Schuleit. Photo: Nafis Azad
For Baldwin's upcoming BAM engagement, Wade Kavanaugh & Stephen B. Nguyen are creating the visual environment. The two artists, who work independently in addition to their joint projects, had adjacent Brooklyn studios, and helped one another with construction before starting to collaborate. Their joint work is robust and turbulent, made of twisted paper, and frequently takes the shape of giant tree trunks and limbs, or insatiable vines. 

Oxbow. Photo: Andy Romer
Oxbow makes its New York premiere at the BAM Fisher from Nov 13 to 15. The other collaborators add to the creative mix—Justin Jones (music, sound design), Ryan Tracy (additional music), Michael O'Connor (lighting), and Brooklyn clothing designer Alice Ritter (costumes).

After the muscularity and mythic sprawl of their collective work, it's somewhat of a surprise to see Kavanaugh/Nguyen's individual art. While very different, some of their projects conjure ideas about absence, imprint, and negative space; others, the accretion of small units to eventually form a formidable mass. In contrast, much of their work together seems to have sprouted organically, like the giant beanstalk. This video, however, clearly shows it's anything but planting a seed and watering it. We can't wait to see what they have in store for the Fisher.

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