Act of love struggles on an East Village stage
“Transcending Form,” a muddled dance theater piece by John Byrne playing one night a week downtown, is formed through a friendship between Byrne and David LaChapelle, a celebrity photographer and director who made the 2005 krumping documentary “Rize.” LaChapelle’s art mashes up contemporary and classical material, and Byrne’s piece mashes up gratuitous nudity, dated interpretive dance and mime — as well as awkward attempts to include LaChappelle’s images onstage by printing them on life-size swatches of fabric hung on a clothesline. Wildly mismatched performers, ranging from experienced modern dancer Debra Zalkind to green newcomers of all shapes and sizes, act out an obscure plot involving masks worn atop other masks, Latin-soul singer Gina Figueroa, angels and naked boys.
The title gives the game away: form is the essence of time-based art, and Byrne, an alum of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, has little sense of how to manage the formal demands of an hour-long show, let alone transcend them.
If you really want to experience LaChapelle’s artwork, go to the lobby of the Lever House, where Byrne’s dancers performed with and around an installation of his pieces until the building management cancelled the shows last month. Enormous paper chains printed with his trademark nudes, a huge collage and window circles made of photographic stickers of the same nudes surrounded six performers; the performance was much more interesting than the one in the theater.