Vegetation figures prominently in Yanira Castro's 2011 Paradis, which is performed both inside and outside the Garfield Park Conservatory. But she's no environmentalist; though plants make a gorgeous set, Castro homes in on the human, bringing artists and audiences into the same close space. Paradis seems to follow the arc of its inspiration, Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique (2004), traveling from hell to heaven. When Paradis debuted at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Castro devoted the first third of the hour-long piece to a male soloist whose slow, stiff clockwork motions (in an indoor desert) suggested a well-aged Beckett character. The audience clustered in the dark—a shadowy herd—then ambled outdoors, where figures in white could be glimpsed in the distance.
Castro's site-specific pieces take humble routes to transcendence. Her first piece with her current Brooklyn-based company, A Canary Torsi, was set in a hotel men's room—and received a prestigious Bessie. In Paradis, Castro translates cinematic devices—long shots, flashbacks, and especially close-ups—into a real-time, real-space exchange between four dancer couples, a live pianist, and the audience. Ultimately, the intimacy and sense of community pervading the piece's final two-thirds returns performers and spectators alike to the state of those orginal innocents, Adam and Eve.