JUNK ENSEMBLE
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Review: Junk Ensemble Explores Darkness and Danger in ‘Dusk Ahead’

GIA KOURLAS

MAY 25, 2015

Three blindfolded dancers grope in near darkness as two others lead them in different directions to the sound of hand bells. Moments later, four performers execute a squiggly gestural sequence knitted together with shoulder shrugs, flowing arms and slow pliés punctuated by quick swipes of the ankle. At the back of the stage, another dancer, wearing a wolf’s head, saunters by.

“Dusk Ahead,” an evening-length work full of such eclectic moments and performed by Junk Ensemble on Saturday afternoon at the Ellen Stewart Theater, embraces the surreal side of twilight, which the French describe as, “L’heure entre chien et loup,” or the hour between dog and wolf. That in-between time, in which what once seemed safe suddenly wafts of danger, inspired Jessica and Megan Kennedy, the artistic directors behind this award-winning contemporary Irish dance company. It makes its United States debut as part of La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival.

It’s helpful to know that the choreographers are identical twin sisters. Along with exploring the eerie side of dusk in relation to blindness and vulnerability, the Kennedy sisters frequently stage scenes in which dancers mirror or are attached to one another. A duet for Justine Cooper and Ramona Nagabczynski has the pair moving with their hair braided together; similarly, Ms. Nagabczynski and Miguel do Vale lock their lips in an extended kiss, even as they twist and curl around each other. In one acrobatic feat, she hops onto his thighs and rotates until she’s in a backbend. Their lips stay pressed.

But in this production, such vignettes have difficulty developing beyond the actions themselves, and too often “Dusk Ahead” feels more like a series of movement experiments culled together under a theme rather than a fully realized world. Sabine Dargent’s set, a sculptural installation of coppery strings, is the most arresting sight in “Dusk Ahead”; it glows mistily under Sarah Jane Shiels’s lighting.

At times, the dancers, obscured, stand behind the set’s webbing as if they’re behind bars. Egil Rostad performs cello alongside Denis Clohessy’s recorded score, and two of the dancers even sing a duet about twilight. Even so, the accumulation of scenes grows increasingly ponderous the more the choreographers grapple with the idea of what sight really means. What does a person choose to see? What is real or imagined? “Dusk Ahead” is both too obvious and, from the dancers’ point of view, too internal of a journey. It could use more bite.