Review: Dance plays with space and minds

On the surface, “Replica,” the dance piece slash conceptual art work by artist Daniel Arsham and choreographer Jonah Bokaer presented at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Friday, was a cool, intellectual exercise in the way we perceive space and physical dimensions. But you could also find a kind of poignant emotion beneath “Replica’s” seemingly inexpressive surface, the kind generated by the empty space left when one person leaves another.

Not that Bokaer and CC Chang (the dancer replacing original performer and co-choreographer Judith Sanchez Ruiz) danced anything resembling a romantic duet. The drama, like “Replica” as a whole, was structural and visual. The piece plays with illusion — it’s all in how you see things.

Arsham’s seemingly simple set, which defines “Replica,” is the corner of a white cube — two walls joined at right angles, in the middle of the stage. The first action takes place in a film projected on those walls, showing Bokaer and Chang kicking, then clambering through those walls, followed by Arsham, who is shown sledgehammering the pieces of the wall back in place — an unreal, impossible sequence of events. When Arsham really does break through the two walls, leaving rough-edged holes, it’s funny and jarring.

Other films show the cavorting, silhouetted figures of the two dancers seeming to disappear into the angle and edges of the cube, or into a hole in a wall projected on the real wall. In one film, they fade into faint, dancing silhouettes, glimmering ghosts. The space behind the walls takes on a surreal quality — you imagine an other-worldly, extra dimension back there, instead of a confined corner.

At first Bokaer and Chang move in angular, jagged shapes, with a placid demeanor and steady, monotonous energy — but close together, their limbs crisscrossing, fitting into each other, both intimate and distant. Chang exits, and Bokaer bends over in a precariously balanced, square shape, around his own empty space. Later, as she dances alone, Alexis Georgopoulos’ score soars mournfully.

Chang goes back through the wall and light gleams from behind it, while the stage goes dark — as if the world is inside those two walls, not outside them. Bokaer steps through and stops, half in and half out, as Chang dances alone, agitated and jittery, until she finally joins him, stepping through the other hole. They both sink down and disappear. To what, you wonder? To be together? Are they inside somewhere, or outside? And where does that leave us?


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