Pressure Makes a Diamond: xyz nyc at the Tank

Image and text by Owen Keogh, Residence Manager

All of the residents of 305 West 29th are involved in so many different projects and internships around New York City that it is hard to keep up and catch up sometimes. Current NYAP resident Lauren Holler made it a little easier this week with her involvement in not one, but two performances on Thursday and Friday nights. I had the opportunity to make it to Lauren’s performance on Thursday night at the Tank’s  production xyc nyc: The Oasis in the Desert, and was excited to find an intriguing mix of experimental theater, friendly competition, and DIY ethics hidden in plain sight on the eighth floor just off of Broadway’s well-worn sidewalks.

NYAP Residents Lauren Holler, left, and Shannon Waldman.

NYAP Residents Lauren Holler, left, and Shannon Waldman.

The concept behind xyz nyc is to pair choreographers and dancers randomly and give the teams one week to prepare and perform an original dance in what the Tank describes as a “cross between a choreographic laboratory and a reality TV game show.” The audience then votes on their favorite performance and the winning team moves on to the championship, to be held in May; the winner of the championship then gets the opportunity to produce a full-length solo show later in the year. While I am wary of outrightly placing artists in direct competition with each other, xyz nyc seeks to eliminate cut-throat tendencies by hosting a guest judge — in this iteration’s case, two judges, a husband-wife team — to provide live feedback in between each individual performance. The result is a uniquely tense yet nurturing environment for both performers and audience members.

The night consisted of four dances: two solos and two duets; two with spoken word components and two with musical accompaniment. In the end, choreographer Gabrielle Giordano and her dance partner Erin Quarles were named the winners of the Oasis in the Desert; however, I will maintain my favorite performance of the night was that of Jaema Green, Ms. Holler, and Caitlin Cullen: a duet performed by Ms. Holler and Ms. Cullen describing what appeared to be the simultaneously physical closeness and psychological detachment of friends, accompanied by Ms. Green’s spoken word narrative describing the seemingly endless distractions and missed decisions of contemporary young adult life. Although I certainly do not consider myself an expert in dance or performance, the piece performed by Ms. Green, Ms. Holler, and Ms. Cullen provided material that I could connect with immediately, and actually provided an entryway into beginning to understand the other performances of the night.

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