Friday before last I had my first exposure to Nico Muhly’s music and Stephen Petronio’s dance group at I Drink the Air Before Me. Music and dance were enjoyable but I felt a bit disappointed with the hour-long work (though I should also say it didn’t help that I had seen the Merce Cunningham troupe the night before, and that I was starting to get sick with the flu and a migraine). But the piece just seemed too mild.
The title is from The Tempest, though I soon realized when the dance started that there was no attempt to tell that particular story. Instead, according to Petronio’s statement in the program, the work “was inspired by storms, both environmental and internal, and the whirling, unpredictable, threatening and thrilling forces of nature that overwhelm us.” The ad for the performance featured several mostly-naked dancers splayed against a splashing stream of water. Nothing on stage was as dramatic or as fun as that image (I kept waiting for the water to make its entrance. . . .). Very little seemed unpredictable, threatening, or thrilling, either. I had the impression of lots of swirling. Towards the end there were two brief pas-de-deux, the first between two men and the second a man and a woman, that stood out for their emotional engagement, but soon melted back into the swirling. (I think the dancer in common to both those interludes was Joshua Tuason. Sorry, I don’t remember the others for sure – as I said, I was coming down with something and putting a lot of energy into not coughing). There was a brief moment at the end where there seemed some sort of moment of peace. But to my eye nothing really built or was developed. The score started with the sort of thumping rock-like bass line that I hate, but then more interesting music was added on top. I started liking Muhly’s music more as it went on, but as with the choreography I felt mildly entertained rather than converted or persuaded.
Afterwards, at the far front end of the BART platform at Montgomery Street, waiting for the train, I saw a rat running in circles. It started circling closer and closer and I started to worry that it had rabies or something since it wasn’t scuttling off at the presence of humans, though admittedly there were only one or two of us down that far. Its swirling echoed the hour of swirling I had just seen. The train arrived before the rat did anything vicious.