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Sarah Hart
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Mainstage Theater
United States
New York
Long Island City, NY

BOUND - Yaa Samar! Dance Theater

by Sarah Hart
October 22, 2011
LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Mainstage Theater
31-10 Thomson Ave
(7 Train to 33 St/ Rawson St)
Long Island City, NY 11101
BOUND, by Yaa Samar! Dance Theater
Directer and Writer Samar Haddad King
Choreography created in collaboration with artists in the Middle East

Performed at the Laguardia Performing Arts Center October 21 - 22, 2011

For more about the Yaa Samar! Dance Theater, go to www.ysdt.org.

For more about the photos by Dave Ratzlow, go to www.ratzlow.com
Three walls, pushed into different positions by restless dancers, become the boundaries within, on, and against which the dramas of this piece take place. At times they represent the walls of buildings, other times they are the barrier surrounding Palestine, and sometimes they are the surface of computer screens. These walls define the space within which human relationships take place. They determine parameters of privacy, ownership, and rights. They shape the landscape of expectation and hope, and they are the implacable obstacles against which the soft stuff of bodies and emotions must respond.

There are three main narratives in Bound. One is that of a father and daughter. He seems rough, perhaps to the point of abusive, and there is something unsettling in the child's mute but ineffective rebellion. Although their interactions are muffled by apartment walls, energy thwarted will, of course, reappear elsewhere. In this case it bursts forth in the girl's strangely explosive behavior and later, when a concerned neighbor finally breaches the invisible wall of appropriate intervention, it ignites a new and passionate relationship.

Another narrative is that of a Palestinian street artist. We see him in video - a man with long hair who sometimes plays guitar but is more often running - running and running - along the unrelenting wall at the border between Israel and Palestine. He has the unwavering focus of a caged animal circling an enclosure. In other clips we see him high up, perhaps on a roof top, gazing over a view of buildings and sky. Here his horizon is expanded, but his movement is strictly restricted. Dancers enact the story of this artist. They push and press against the walls and worry the surface; their restless obsession sometimes in juxtaposition with the dreamy pace of the video.

The most salient narrative, however, is that of two lovers. They met in the United States, this much is clear, but now one, the young woman May, (played very convincingly by the charismatic Riham Isaac) has returned to Palestine. Complexities with immigration and visa and such not make it impossible to know when they might see one another again. We are privy to their the video-chat communication and the occasional phone call. It's remarkably intimate access. They gaze out at us uninhibited, seeing into the eyes of the other, and we experience, more than witness, their struggle to adjust to the new shape of their relationship bounded as it is now to technological interfaces. It is their conversation, especially May's thoughtful observations, that guide our interpretation of the piece.

When moving objects are contained within boundaries inevitably they will hit against those boundaries. And humans - in body, mind, emotion - are moving, changing entities. The tighter the confinement, the more frequent the collisions. Dancers slam against the walls, we wince - but also in Bound we are seeing the collision of desire against unyielding forces with the power to deny. Desire thwarted becomes frustration and anger. "The problem is lack of control. You hit the wall, but the remnants of the movement are still there, reminding you that you are stuck." Which is what hurts, May explains.

The message of Bound is, however, more complex than simply a critique of walls. Boundaries may be constraints, but they can also be opportunities - and Bound hints at the unexpected beauty that can arises when moving things adapt to hindrance. The walls on stage may indeed be blank-faced blockades on one side (like euphemisms, as they are understood by May. Linguistic devices "useful for hiding crimes") but on the other they are composed of scaffolding - and what is scaffolding if not perfect for climbing? From that side then suddenly the wall is less obstacle than it is opportunity - for gaining height, a better vantage, greater range for, say, spraying paint far and wide. This physical truth seems metaphorically true as well. If you can get behind a wall, into the workings of what supports it and what gives it its strength, then suddenly one can change one's relationship with that wall. One can be in control, no longer a helpless victim.

Hip hop floods the sound system, then on flicker the chat screens of May and Taareq. "I love rap," says May. "It's hard, but it's real - hard and real, like life." Yes, rap may be angry, she tries to explain to her unenthusiastic boyfriend, but it's a constructive use of anger. Rap can help a person handle her own anger, and as such, it becomes a tool of empowerment for transforming the very sort of circumstances that gave rise to it.

In the closing exchange between May and Tareeq she confesses to feeling frustrated - frustrated by the restrictions on her mobility, by the check points, by her sense of powerlessness. She poses this question: would you rather have been born with arms and legs that don't work, or not have been born with arms and legs at all? Tareeq chooses the former, because there's always hope, he says, that they will function one day. May emphatically chooses the latter. It's hope that is the worst inhibition. Hope that one day you'll have what others have can devolve into bitterness and despair. Better, she says, never to have the option of hope. If you have no legs, you know you will never walk - but you will surely find your own way. "You will make your own way; you will find your own way to move."

Freedom, then, does not necessarily require an absence of obstruction, but an empowered response. "What if this is all we ever have?" she asks Tareeq sorrowfully, indicating the screen, their pixelated images. "You're my life," he tells her. "You're everything to me." She is close to the camera, her face and eyes larger than life. The projection looms over the entire back wall of the theater. We know he tells the truth.

The stories that make up Bound are distinct rivulets, but as the piece develops they touch and merge. Characters cross through the separate narratives, weaving them together. Likewise the stories move seamlessly between mediums of dance, sound, and video. It is fitting that in a piece about the transcendence of boundaries, itself composed of pieces that transcended geographic boundaries in order to come together, the work should also transcend barriers of form. What ensues is unique, free of easy classification, and beautiful.
Sara Genoves-Sylvan and Sabrina Jaafar in <i>Bound</i>

Sara Genoves-Sylvan and Sabrina Jaafar in Bound

Photo © & courtesy of Dave Ratzlow

Nathan Trice and Kathryn Baer Schetlick in <i>Bound</i>

Nathan Trice and Kathryn Baer Schetlick in Bound

Photo © & courtesy of Dave Ratzlow

Dancers of Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre in <i>Bound</i>

Dancers of Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre in Bound

Photo © & courtesy of Dave Ratzlow

Sara Genoves-Sylvan in <i>Bound</i>

Sara Genoves-Sylvan in Bound

Photo © & courtesy of Dave Ratzlow

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