A lithe beaming young man joyously dancing with a mannequin torso is one of the entrancing highlights of the beautiful topical dance piece, And There it Was. It is performed and created by Croatian dancer Tomislav Nevistic. He was inspired by his paintings done during the pandemic which express the grief, loss and isolation he felt during this harsh era. Mr. Nevistic trained in dance in his native country, came to New York City in 2015 and studied at the Alvin Ailey School.
Made for the Brooklyn-based Ziel Dance Theater, And There it Was was performed and recorded on June 26, 2021, at Manhattan’s David DuPuy Studios. It was part of the Ziel Dance & Film Festival’s (ZDF) multidisciplinary program, Refractions. This was a celebratory event noting the group’s return to live performances and a screening of a new film, Chamber created by and featuring the company’s founder Devin Ziel was held.
And There it Was is performed in a white gallery space with two ceiling lamps bathing it in a steady neutral hue. Integral to the atmosphere is the recorded soundtrack comprised of industrial humming, sonic tones, vintage jazz, classical samplings and rock snippets, most poignant is a gutsy woman’s wailing. These well-selected tracks are all perfectly matched to the piece’s varying moods.
Wearing black trousers, the shirtless and barefoot Mr. Nevistic is shrouded in plastic wrap. A cryptic blonde woman in pink dance wear and a diaphanous robe scuttles about with a flashlight. She eventually reappears with a silver balloon, rolls it around on the floor and leaves. Nevistic soon triumphantly breaks free of the plastic, and we’re then treated to 20 minutes of his exhilarating movements depicting his episodic contemporary scenario, conveying the sense of these fractured times. That’s enhanced by the perpetual sight of his shape-shifting shadow on the back wall. Symbolism abounds.
Magnificent leaps, graceful gestures with his hands and arms, grand turns, and Martial Arts-style moves are all to be experienced by Nevistic’s exceptional modern dance technique. His choreography recalls the texture of Martha Graham, Paul Taylor’s wit and Twyla Tharp’s jauntiness.
This being a recording in an intimate venue, there is the sight of audience members near the playing area attentively watching, it’s a snapshot of that day. Some are masked, some are not. In June, there was a brief surge of optimism in believing that the crisis had been combatted and normalcy was returning.
The camera also captures Nevistic up close. We’re able to fully connect with his expressive chiseled youthful facial features and fathom the emotions he imparts and situations he encounters. Particularly dramatic is his wrestling with the strewn plastic. Appearing with him as the mysterious woman is the alluring Ms. Ziel. Ziel is captivating as this Beckettian figure exhibiting her transfixing physicality while intriguingly performing her tasks.
“Every story has a destination, every movement leads to something, somewhere. The energy never dies and if we tell the stories they will never be forgotten.” So, states the troupe. With their majestic And There it Was, the Ziel Dance Theater have told a resonant story.
And There it Was
Ziel Dance Theater
For more information, visit http://www.zieldancetheater.com
Running time: 22 minutes