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Carlotta Sagna

'A'

by Jenai Cutcher

October 3, 2003 -- The Kitchen, New York, NY

Like any performer, dancers express deep aspects of themselves and inhabit a risky state of vulnerability every time they step in front of an audience. Choreographer and director Carlotta Sagna, along with fellow dancers Lisa Gunstone and Antoine Effroy, actually do it twiceover; they are performers baring their souls playing performers baring their souls. In “A,” the evening-length work in which Gunstone and Effroy play the “performers” and Sagna the “director,” the trio dance, converse, deliver monologues, observe, change costumes, describe the non-existent lighting changes, and more. Some might refer to these activities as acting, but the word does not apply here-- they were too comfortable.

Perhaps much of the material was rooted in reality, perhaps not. But it was so unpretentious-- so un-“performance”-- for all I knew or cared, it was the truth. It was in that moment, anyway, because it was universal and accessible to all. Although Lisa and Antoine deal specifically with performance anxiety, the need for attention, and the desire to be liked by the audience, their root is the common struggle for self-expression that everyone experiences.

Lisa relates an intense tale of miscommunication, incorporating more and more upper body gestures until it’s the movement that shouts as her voice subsides. Carlotta and Antoine shower her profusely with praise, gushing over her tremendous talent.

The beautifully seamless blend of text and movement in this initial segment is lost somewhere in the middle of the piece. Scenes remain equally captivating and exhibitive of the performers’ ranges but become too predictably delineated and settle into a formula of speaking, then dancing, then speaking, then dancing.

Maybe it’s this pattern that makes the “Summertime” scene all the more poignant. Antoine stands in the bare space, completely present, open, vulnerable. Moments earlier, Lisa had done the same, beseeching someone to please, just talk to her. Antoine trumps this request with “Would anyone like to marry me?” His calm, sweetly boyish rationale makes you want to consider it. He sustains this demeanor even as Lisa joins him, intermittently crying and clinging to him. He begins humming “Summertime,” eyes still twinkling at the audience, patiently accommodating Lisa’s sobs and awkward positions. He carries her through space as she carries him through the tune, feeding him the words between fits of tears.

With their ease in transitions and comfort with each other and themselves, these performers create an overall tone to the piece that is equivalent to Yvonne Rainer’s pedestrian movement. The influence of Trio A on this piece is observed, but not entirely understood. What is recognizable in both choreographers, however, is an earnest quest for the absolute truth of the matter through the mediums particular to their own sensibilities. Carlotta Sagna’s capacity to find it and present it effectively is a promising element in a post-post-modern dance world still trying to discover its own truths.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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