Paradise Not Found: “Utopia” by Valerie Green/Dance Entropy at Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church

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"Utopia" by Dance/Entropy. Photo Stephen Delas Heras.

“Utopia” by Dance/Entropy. Photo Stephen Delas Heras.

Valerie Green/Dance Entropy
Danspace Project St. Mark’s Church
December 13, 2016

Paradise Not Found

The work asks “what does Utopia mean to you?”

The standard definition of Utopia is an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. What I saw was seven dancers, (five women, two men), in vaguely Greek white costumes dancing with long, cylindrical poles.  The dancers gave the premise a good try but the end result was bland. The poles, made by visual artist Keren Anavy, as well as the “rocks” that later became lighted headdresses, took over. The dancing seemed in service to the props so the concept of exploring a “perfect place” got lost in the shuffle. In fairness, there wasn’t much shuffling but rather too many repetitive, unimaginative steps with a few lovely interludes, notably when a man and woman briefly danced a tender pas de deux and later when the troupe ran in place with the poles serving as trees flanking each dancer.

The original music by Mark Katsaounis consists of electronic sounds combined with acoustic percussion. It was also repetitive and didn’t hold my attention. The biggest moment of tension arose at the end of the work when one of the dancers moved across the stage picking up the rock/headdresses. I wondered if she would be able to hold them all. That’s not my idea of sustained choreographic excitement.   

The performing group is called Valerie Green/Dance Entropy which is confusing. Entropy means a gradual decline into disorder.  Why characterize a dance group as falling apart?  Program notes say that “Utopia might be an internal place ….the notion of what it means to be safe persists inside an environment that is continually built and reconstructed.” That must explain why the dancers continually arranged and rearranged the poles, forming the outline of a house, using them as oars, throwing them at one another, stepping over and around them and so forth. Was the position of one of the dancers on the ground alluding to Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World? Was the male dancer hauling pillars across the floor meant to remind us of Christ’s progression with the cross on his shoulders? More moments like these would have been interesting.

Deborah Erenberg’s costumes that allude to ancient Greece are airily attractive as is Alex Lopez’ video projection that casts a floaty, dreamy purple-specked light on the floor of Danspace housed in St. Mark’s Church.

The work was choreographed by Valerie Green and performed by Emily Elizabeth Aiken, Daan Bootsma, Caitlyn Casson, Hana Ginsburg Tirosh, Erin Giordano, Kristin Licata and Richard Scandola.  Utopia is created in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. The work is presented as part of Danspace Project’s Community ACCESS series, which provides subsidized off-season rental opportunities for Danspace Project community members.

Works by new and emerging choreographers are to be applauded. That said, this work is too amorphous and never made a point, nor was it a classic “plotless” dance with engaging movements and music. Going forward it would be good to see Valerie Green and her company select and perform a more specific, more dramatic project.

About the author

Mari S. Gold

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. Her blog, But I Digress… , on cultural events, travel, food  and other topics is at She lives in New York City.

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