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Beauty dances a razor's edge

With horror on the other side. Choreographer Julia Rae Antonick investigates in a new dance, Cresset: Vibrant, Rusting.



Beauty pleases, horror makes us shrink, and some beauty is so extreme it loops back around to horror, driving men to prostrate themselves and build shrines. Khecari choreographer Julia Rae Antonick is interested in what ensues when horror encroaches on beauty: people try to isolate the pristine and, often misguidedly, discard the rest. In Cresset Antonick seeks to curb this impulse, implanting uncomfortable movements, like sharp-edged, kooky articulation of limbs and digits, borrowed from Balinese dance rites about good beasts and evil witches, into the clean lines of modern dance.

Antonick finds a way to combine vigor with death while avoiding the grotesque or necrophilic. Before the show begins, a creaky tune plays as the curtains part to offer an oblique view of one dancer giving flirty side-eye. Compare that to the opening, where the same dancer is caught in a sickly wave of tiny contortions. The overall impression is that each woman is possessed by a spirit set on physically assaulting her. When the dancers later knots themselves in ribbons of black videotape, the origin of the earlier constrained gestures seems clear, and much less grim. What a relief, if the dancers were merely possessed by tape. But comfort is fleeting. The tape, overtly intestinal, serves finally as an abiding reminder: you can't escape death any more than you can escape your own guts.

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