“Written on Water,” to a hushed string score by Stefan Levin had a cool formality, yet was moving as its three characters—Barton Cowperthwaite, Kaitlyn Gilliland and Mr. Lidberg—performed a quiet dance of meetings, entwinings and partings. First the two men approached each other in slow lunges, seemingly unaware of each other, mapping out deliberate patterns on the floor. They met, their limbs making undulating shapes around each other. They rolled on the floor and separated, only to return to each other. Soon Ms. Gilliland joined them and danced mostly with Mr. Cowpethwaite, leaving Mr. Lidberg alone on the floor, a figure of cool grief upon whom paper flower petals rained. The three seemed to be dancing within the score rather than to it.
“Snow,” to quiet, but intensely rhythmic music by Ryan Francis, used Japanese theater techniques to reveal the depth of despair of Mr. Lidberg’s character. A Bunraku-style puppet, designed by Kevin Augustine was manipulated by the other cast members outfitted in black hoods. The puppet represented either Mr. Lidberg as a child or his inner child. When the two were on stage at the same time, often duplicating each other’s movements, the effect was spine-chilling. Mr. Cowperthwaite and Ms. Gilliland were joined by Christopher Adams, doubling as puppeteers and dancers. So subtle was the puppetry that when it was left alone on the stage, lying under a snowfall, it was difficult not to see it and feel for it as if it were a real person. The effect was heartbreaking. The dancers stripped off their hoods and guided Mr. Lidberg around the stage, coolly partnering him. At the end, the three, in puppeteer gear, took the puppet offstage and returned to a supine Mr. Lidberg, stripping off their hoods as if they were the forces which guided him whether he was a puppet or not. There was an intense hush in the audience as the curtain fell on this tableau.
Carolyn Wong’s lighting turned the Joyce stage into a place of mystery.
There was one problematic element. For someone who communicates so much with so little on stage, Mr. Lidberg resorts to over explication in his program notes. His work is potent. His descriptions of his creative processes were unnecessary.
Pontus Lidberg Dance (June 6-7, 2015)
Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit http://www.joyce.org
For more information visit http://www.lidberg.se
Running time: one hour and 15 minutes including one intermission