January 24, 2020   The Dance Journal/Philadelphiadance.org

by Winfield Maben

On January 22nd and 23rd Philadelphia Dance Project hosted JUNKSPACE, a site-adaptive work by New York based Tori Lawrence + Co. at Neighborhood House. Set amidst the droning ambient score, performed live by musicians Cole Bjelic and Seth Wenger, the work presents a postmodern landscape as a trio of dancers move in and out of synchronicity; exploring the space through movement, sound, and their interactions with various found objects. 

The work opens in darkness, the amplified sound of heavy dragging footsteps and the creaking of wood fills the space as dancer Jungwoong Kim descends the stairs above the entrance to the room. Attached to his feet are two microphones, the source of the sound. The impact of every step and motion is felt clearly as he moves towards the musician opposite him. As time passes this exploration of movement and sound increases in complexity, a desk is introduced which Kim pushes through the space, the sound of wood on wood creating a harsh cacophony. Moments like these prevail throughout JUNKSPACE, surreal and mesmerizing they capture the attention of the audience and transport them to a subliminal world within the space occupied by the work. 

The movement itself is effective at building upon the foundation set by the music and staging. The trio move fluidly in and out of synchronicity with each other as the work reaches its crescendo. The languid fluidity of the movement is occasionally broken up by erratic bursts of sharp gestural work which textures the piece and keeps it from falling into monotony. 

There is a sense of discovery present throughout. From Kim’s investigation of the desk during the work’s opening moments to the way the dancers seem to drift about the space, in and out of contact with each other. Combined with the otherworldly feel of the music and the presence of foreign sounds in the score (such as the shuffling of feet or the movement of the desk) the audience is given the sense that the world portrayed within the scope of the piece is one that exists separate from their own. This is compounded in the way the work begins and ends, as Kim literally descends into the space, marking him as a newcomer while the other two dancers (Ellie Goudie-Averill and Jenna Riegel) emerge from within the space itself. At the conclusion of the work, Kim ascends the staircase again while Goudie-Averill and Riegel melt back into the space, marking an exit from the liminal space the work explores. 

Despite being a site-adaptive work, which would imply a heavy reliance on the site itself, JUNKSPACE exceeds in the construction of its own sense of place. During the piece, it never feels as if the choreography, staging, or music need to lean on the space itself to accomplish the tone and atmosphere it sets out to convey. Instead, the reverse is true, these elements serve to transform the site, bending their surroundings into something that feels far removed from the wooden floors and bare walls of Neighborhood House. 

With JUNKSPACE, Tori Lawrence weaves audio and visual elements to create an immersive multimedia journey. Through the use of deeply textured choreography which plays with rhythm and tone in tandem with the hypnotic melodies of the two musicians, Lawrence presents a sense of dynamic synthesis; blending the two mediums together in a way that is both organic and engaging. As the lights faded away and the work ends, a pregnant pause fills the room before the eruption of applause, as audience members contemplated the world they had just experienced and explored alongside Lawrence’s collaborators. 

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