Inspiration from the Body

George de la Pena
Ballet International

New York City: a typical wet, hectic miserable day in winter made extraordinary by chance. All separate events, but connected. I was given the opportunity to experience, in one day, the work of artists Polly Motley, Molly Davies, Robert Wilson and Bill Viola. It was a day of redefining space, time and the body within it. It began with the startling video images of Bill Viola at the Whitney Museum which led to a fascinating talk on theatre by Wilson at Lincoln Center Theater and ended with the live performance at the Jack Tilton Gallery in SoHo by Polly Motley and Molly Davies. Motley, a dancer and veteran of multimedia performance work, mused on the theme of life and death. In a pre-record, she recites some unusual statistics and ratios: "there are twice as many dead people on the planet than there are living. If we all just come from and return to ashes, why are the living so agitated?" she asks.

The performance had begun in a familiar way, but in the masterful hands of video artist Molly Davies, it was a fresh journey along the powerful naked body of Motley. With two cameras gliding simultaneously along the barely perceptible moving body, scanning, probing, invading her space, it was Molly Davies doing the dancing as she sat by her editing apparatus and with the touch of a button, guided our eyes. With wonderful dissolves, cross fades, wipes and other technological marvels she made us see the body in a new way. The stark images of black and white juxtaposed with lush colour made the body at once a harsh landscape and an object of erotic beauty. The cameras danced and explored. The immediacy of Davies editing made the chance discoveries all the more exciting. Miss Davies has a wonderful eye. The second section of the performance was a three monitor, pre-recorded study of getting dressed which was repeated three times followed by the live action that was performed in very slow motion. It was at the end of this portion that Polly Motley finally appeared before the audience fully clothed, and moving in 'real' time. Her pre-recorded voice-prefaced each tiny dance poem with the sobering ratios regarding the living and the dead. Polly Motley is a beautifully fluid and powerful dancer. The simplicity of her movements were all the more beautiful after the technological wizardry displayed by Davies. All of this was accompanied by the artistry of Beth Coleman who created audio matrices with noise, beat structures and frequency manipulation that was done live during the performance. An invaluable contribution. These marvelous artists should not be missed.

Doing the Numbers Carefully Adds up to a Bit of Mystery

Jack Anderson
The New York Times

You didn't have to start counting to enjoy "Dancing the Numbers," the intricate solo Polly Motley performed on Thursday night as a part of the City/Dans series of the Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church.

Her inspiration was the Fibonacci Series, a numerical progression developed by the 13th-century mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci, in which each new number is the sum of the two previous ones: for instance, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. The sequence has long fascinated scientists, philosophers and artists and is a major clue in "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown's best-selling novel about mysticism and murder.

Ms. Motley, wearing a white T-shirt and black slacks, began with simple pointing and circling arm gestures. As phrases grew increasingly longer, Ms. Motley did such things as stare contemplatively, crouch and hug herself, roll on the floor and raise herself from it using one arm as a hinge.

In a program note Ms. Motley wrote that she let the Fibonacci series help determine the length of each section of work. But sections flowed by without sharp breaks and only mathematicians or dancegoers with stopwatches might know with certainty where she was in the series at any point during the 45 minute piece.

Numbers became irrelevant. What made the solo mesmerizing was Ms. Motley's rapt concentration, her total absorption in every step. Her slightest details commanded attention: her stiffening and relaxing hands for instance, or the curlings of her arms about her head.

Dance and mathematicians united to create a sense of mystery, which was enhanced by Paul Geluso's sound collage, which blended electronic music with ordinary noises like bells, auto horns, train whistles and cricket chirps. All those familiar sounds began to seem wondrous.

However erudite her conceptions may have been, Ms. Motley always gave the impression the she knew what she was doing and where she was going. As a result even the math dummies could happily let their imaginations follow her.

Indigenous Culture

Jack Anderson
The New York Times

Polly Motley now lives in BOulder, Colo. But she grew up in Texas, and on Wednesday she choreographically reminisced about her years there in the program of three solos she offered as a part of Dance Theater Workshop's Out-of Towners series.

The theatrical baggage she took on her journey into the past included slide projections and films, as well as taped bending of texts with an attractive assortment of pop and country-and-western songs. The elaborate multi-media devices never overburdened her. She proved to be a dancer with an easygoing way of moving and, when the dramatic occasion required it, an endearing smile.

While slides and film of fields, rural roads, small-town streets and railroad tracks flashed by in "Folk Dance," a premiere, Ms. Motley happily jiggled and hopped like some free spirit dancing alone on the prairie. A taped voice suddenly declared "You're crazy," causing her to look vulnerable. Quotations of a catechism made her seem both prim and uncertain. Yet she loosened up again, as if she had cast aside her worries.

Ms. Motley wore a man's suit and adopted a solemn demeanor at the start of "Stand by Your Man." As she talked about her affectionate yet hard-drinking father, stage technicians photographed her, and view of her were projected on three video screens. After taking off the suit, she danced, apparently lost in thought, wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Two of the screens showed her in these informal clothe. But the third repeated images in male attire. As a result, the production created the illusion that Ms. Motley was both herself and the memory of her father.

There were no words or slides in "Point of Rescue." Ms. Motley let her arms float around her in the air, stretch upwards and then draw closer to her body. Through these gestures of reaching outward and pulling inward, she suggested that she was reliving events that had happened long ago, and her gentle manner implied that her recollections were sweet.

Evening of Dance Uneven, Provocative

Glenn Giffin
The Denver Post

All too often the young choreographer must wear three hats: dancer, choreographer, and producer. Dancer,because getting others to do one's work is, at best, difficult; and producer because there are so few outlets for new dance.

All this gave rise to "Premiere!" a showcase for new works sponsored by Boulder Dance Alliance and presented at the Space for Dance in Boulder. There will be two additional showings, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

There were some definite standouts. The work of Nancy Smith Hall using a low-flying trapeze provides an illusion of graceful jumps spanning huge spaces and a kind of open-ended glide. Her work was called "Louisiana," performed by Patti Fay, Jonathan Morris, Glenn Davis, Patrick Bohan, and Margaret Volpe Posnick.

Equally absorbing was Polly Motley's "The Point of Rescue," a liquid and space filling solo. Could someone other Than Motley, with her shy smile and seemingly boneless arms be able to do it as well? Probably not, but she was her own best argument.

The formation marching corps that punctuates Diane Butler's "Nightly News/Fantasy of the Human Race" provided a rhythmic and visual frame to Butler's meditation on the phenomenon of the newscast - and its emphasis on things military, athletic and dire.

I was frankly puzzled by Kelly McCall's "Reception," despite its clever accompaniment. I did not receive it well, all this fainting in coils with occasional twitching. It struck me as a studies in movements, including the falling and the slow rolls across the stage, but of use like a sketchbook; not a finished product.

Anna Claire, the solo ballet choreographer among the five, was sidelined from her intended work by an injury. She had to substitute her solo, "Scrapbook" to a collage of spoken words and farm animal sounds - incongruously accompanying Claire herself in mid-length romantic tutu and pointe shoes. Again, where did it all go, really? What was the message, once the shock of culture clash had worn off?

Despite the unevenness of the evening, this certainly gave cause for thought. A provocative evening for the area dance community.

Dancing with Eva Yaa Asantewaa: Exclusive Reviews

February 5, 2005

"Dancing the Numbers"
Polly Motley
Danspace Project
February 4, 2005

Some dance concerts are fun to see. Some stimulate the mind. When it comes to watching Polly Motley dance, this viewer simply feels privileged. "Dancing the Numbers," her solo presented at Danspace with a rich, thrilling soundscape by Paul Geluso, settled around me like a blessing, one as necessary as air, light, water, and food.

It matters to me that Motley is not a youngster. Her experience and depth of soul shows. Having worked with Naropa Institute's Barbara Dilley, she values contemplation, gradual development, and occasional stillness. Her performance left room for us to examine what she was doing in nearly every moment, as if we were circling a museum case and gazing at its treasures from all angles. Her imagination came at us in strong waves but with sufficient time for us to engage with and absorb each offering.

In conceiving the timing of "Dancing the Numbers," Motley says she worked with the Fibonacci number series (1,1,2,3,5,8,13...) and the idea of change and experience that "accumulates, repeats, grows." In her movements, it's possible to see a healthy rainforest of organic forms, all growing this way and that, supporting one another's existence. The logic of this precious space, its inhabitants, and their sometimes strange appearance comes from within.

Motley began the first section of her performance simply standing and gradually raising one arm while slowly reciting the numerical sequence. She gently carried the arm around her torso in a half-circle, and the other arm completed the arc. She slipped to the floor, rolled, and arched. The lights turned off and on to reveal her sitting on a red chair, a vibrant spot of color added to her casual black-and-white costume. Holding her hands out as if to support an invisible book, she spoke at length in glossalalia, a "language" of inspired feeling not intelligible meaning. A third section featured initially delicate repositionings; I recall, especially, the way her hand brushed past her cheek and lingered close to her head as we began to hear the bird songs that would grow in layered complexity throughout Geluso's blending of natural and human-made sounds. Motley's dancing grew more complex, too, in its levels, shaping, twisting, tilting off center, and suspension. In one trace-dancey sequence, inspired by ringing percussion in Geluso's score, Motley explored a more expansive and assertive approach.

Although not constantly moving, Motley always exuded energy and aliveness, and suggested the myriad ways life bursts from the earth. Watching her, you feel as if you;ve journeyed beside this body forever and can anticipate its choices, and so you do. Sometimes, because Motley is really, really good, you cannot anticipate what you will see, but it all feels right.
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