Big Man Dance

| 13 Aug 2014 | 04:20

    The last time Lawrence Goldhuber presented a new work at the Abrons Arts Center, 18 months ago, it was an allegorical tale titled Sleeping Giant—complete with video projections and live music. It found Goldhuber working in a narrative vein, which is where much of his recent work has ventured. This week he returns to this intimate jewel of a theater, but other than the venue, just about everything is different this time around.

    “For the major recent works that I’ve done, there has always been an existing narrative in place,” explains Goldhuber recently, while sitting in his cozy top-floor Manhattan Plaza apartment. “Whether it was Julius Caesar Superstar, or Hoody [his personal take on Little Red Riding Hood], I worked from somebody else’s story and tweaked it. This time, I went into the studio with these dancers and started making movement. A narrative has emerged, even though I definitely started without one.” 

    Robustly plus-size for a dancer, the always inquisitive, effusive Goldhuber is marking his 25th anniversary in dance, which he dates from the start of his 10-year association with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. Not shy with his opinions, he admits that generally “I’m not really a fan of movement for movement’s sake.” But he immediately makes an exception for Merce Cunningham, whose work he steadfastly admires.

    “Pretty movement and spatial arrangements—that doesn’t really compel me,” he says. “So, here I am, always making these ‘story ballets’ and I felt, maybe I should try something else.”

    Another way he is pushing himself beyond his comfort zone is by creating the piece with dancers who are new to his work, rather than some of the longtime associates who have often appeared in it. In the new trio, Trellis, Goldhuber performs with Roy Fialkow, a two-decade veteran of Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo, and Siri Peterson, a tall, leggy dancer/choreographer whom he first encountered when she was a student in a choreographic workshop he taught.

    They move within, under, around and through a large trellis (designed by Gregory L. Bain, who also designed the lighting) that is such a large, dominant presence that Goldhuber knew that once he placed it center stage, there was no way to ignore it. He describes the trellis as “a gateway, an entrance, a portal” and noted that it establishes an Eden-like locale, into which aspects of a ruder, rougher outside world sometimes intrude.

    Back when he was first conceiving this piece, he envisioned it as having eight dancers: four older, four younger. Once it evolved into a trio—due to outside circumstances as well as economic realities—“the idea of a love triangle emerged, with one person always watching the other two. It was a little creepy, and I liked that. Then the pairings that I thought would happen changed. Now, the ending that has emerged is a new surprise.”

    The music for Trellis is an intriguing blend. Goldhuber is combining an ambient score Geoff Gersh composed for a Los Angeles gallery installation with songs by 1960s country crossover singer Skeeter Davis. “I like the mix, but I’m thoroughly clueless what the response is going to be,” he admits happily.


    April 22-25, Abrons Arts Center, Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand St. (at Pitt St.), 212-352-3101; $20.