Friday, March 1, 2019

Lavinia Vago Intrigues Me

Lavinia Vago, photographed by Nikita Zhukovskiy
Whenever I watch Lavinia Vago dance, I'm as gobsmacked as the first time I saw her.

Vago is blessed with an almost super-human flexibility. She can fold her body, origami-style, into an array of shapes, while at the same time projecting a haunting emotional quality that leaves me wanting more.

Over the years I've mainly relished Vago dancing with her longtime artistic partner Kate Wallich, as part of Kate Wallich and the YC. Last month, though, Vago premiered a work of her own called "Noesis X: A Solo for Two," a collaboration with sound designer and performer Harald Stojan. While I only had a chance to see a rehearsal run-through, I've been thinking about "Noesis" ever since.

The performance began before the audience entered Velocity Dance Center's main studio. Vago stood, nude, in the center of the floor, her right leg lunging forward and right arm lightly balanced on her thigh. Two digital clocks ticked up the seconds as Vago stood under a spotlight, its beams diffused by a large white opaque disc.

Once the timer reached 30 minutes, Stojan took his place at a mixing console, slowly changing what felt like an audio pulse into a more definite soundscape. Vago donned clothing: a red jacket and pants, then prowled the circumference of the floor, followed by the narrow beam of the spotlight. As Stojan's soundscape built in intensity, so did Vago's movements. Her prowl morphed into a stalk, then jumps, a hybrid of balletic jetes and jumping jacks. Ultimately, Vago jumped herself to exhaustion, sinking to the floor.

"Noesis" continued, until both the sound and the movement ebbed away, the light slowly fading.
It's a complex duet that Vago told me she expected to vary at each performance. The choreography and the audio component are both partially improvised. Vago said she gave herself physical and spatial landmarks cued by Stojan's soundscape. And his audio mix changed based on Vago's choreographic decisions. This flexibility allowed Vago to take the work in different directions each evening, although Vago said she and Stojan have been collaborating for more than a year, so she had built up physical memory of where she wanted to be at any given time during the 30 minute piece.

I regret I wasn't able to experience "Noesis" more than once. I had seen an earlier iteration in rehearsal; Vago incorporated feedback she received there, expanding her physical vocabulary which, for me, enhanced the emotional impact of this work. To me,"Noesis" was like a sensory sounding board, providing a place for me to recognize impulses within myself.

It's been ten days or so since I saw this piece, and I've been mulling it over ever since. Vago is more than a talented mover; she's an intelligent and careful creator. I look forward to watching her career evolve.

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