By Lauren Warnecke
9 February 2019
Read the following excerpt from Warnecke’s review praising Penny Saunders’, a featured choreographer by DDP:
Ahead of “Aquatic Hypoxia” is Saunders’ “Testimony,” inspired by Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford surrounding allegations of sexual assault in 1982.
I don’t know if the use of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s music “Hand Covers Bruise,” the theme from the movie “The Social Network,” was intentionally tongue-in-cheek, or if Saunders just liked it for her piece. Whatever the case may be, this adds a layer of complexity when we consider the role of social media in perpetuating division about current events.
That’s not to say that the Kavanaugh hearings were more divisive than those of Justice Clarence Thomas, which are often referenced as a historical parallel due to allegations of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. Saunders makes the comparison, too, weaving in memorable bits and pieces of audio from both — Thomas’ “And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves,” and Illinois Senator Dick Durban’s “I want to know what you want to do,” for example — in “Testimony’s” opening sections.
Saunders is especially good at painting the space with large groups of dancers; in this case, it’s 10 women and nine men, all dressed in ties and trousers. In the beginning the narrative is subtly, but uncomfortably demeaning toward the women — their gestures are soft, submissive and doubtful compared to the posturing of the men as they puff their chests and raise a dismissive hand. Saunders extends the dancers’ gorgeous lines by having them pull at their ties every which way. It’s not morbid, but a self-inflicted choking quite often comes to mind.
By the end, the men have gone and to be honest, I hardly noticed them leave. This is obviously the point, having the company’s women perform a gorgeous passage of gestures in which they figuratively and literally hold space. I wouldn’t call “Testimony” a political piece, per se; rather, Saunders beautifully lays bare the strength and resilience of women without pandering to any particular platform on an issue which deeply divided our country, now and a generation ago.
Read the full article on Arts Intercepts.