Last Saturday night, at photographer/filmmaker Bill Hayward’s Flatiron studio, the performance duo of Billy Blanken and Jordan Marinov explored in twenty-two minutes of dance the inevitable push-pull of lovers as they struggle to overcome overwhelming feelings of vulnerability. Intimacies 2 is part of an ongoing collaboration between Marinov Dance and Red Dress Films, producer of the Hayward and Anna Elman film “Asphalt, Muscle, and Bone.” Those of you who have been following this space know we have been watching eagerly the progress of this daring project.
The audience of roughly twenty bordered the stage, created against a makeshift backdrop of photographer’s canvas to which Hayward pinned a dramatic abstract painting of Marilyn Monroe. As the performance begins, Blanken is alone. He reclines bare-chested on the floor, one knee bent and arms outstretched, in a languid pose reminiscent of the young Edward Villella in the opening of Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun,” a ballet about a fleeting encounter between a man and woman. The similarity ends there, however. In the Robbins piece, the young man is absorbed by his reflection; the encounter with the woman is a momentary interruption of his narcissistic reverie. In Intimacies 2, there are no mirrors. The would-be lovers can only look inward or at each other. Blanken’s movements are tight and controlled and the space he inhabits seems claustrophobic, the space of one too long alone with one’s own thoughts. When he is joined by Marinov -- who choreographed the piece -- their pas de deux of approach-avoidance begins in earnest. Here they dance a stiff waltz, barely touching, he gazing at her while she looks away, frightened. There they collide in a passionate embrace, her impossibly long legs in full extension. When they are fully engaged, it seems that the tiny space will not contain them. Marinov is an especially compelling artist, with sharp features, raven hair, and lithe body dressed in a simple sheath. Together, the dancing is energetic, at times bordering on violent. At other times the duo expresses an animal tenderness. In a striking fluid move, Marinov rolls backward over Blanken’s torso. The audience, seated so close to the action, can see and hear the dancers working, their quickening breath, their glistening bodies.
The soundtrack combined original music by Collin Couvillion, poems by Mary Ruefle (Concerning Essential Existence and The Refrigerator), and fragments from Virginia Woolf’s Waves. In an especially inspired moment, the crackling sounds of a police radio intrude during a sustained sequence of particularly intense and concentrated dance. I found myself struggling to stay present and focused on the lovers before me, a reminder that the quotidian threatens during life’s most sublime experiences.