John Malashock’s latest show, “Eye of the Beholder,” is a collection of 14 pieces, most of them duets. The whole thing runs for about an hour, which works out to about four minutes per dance—about the length of numbers on “So You Think You Can Dance.” The effect was like nibbling a lot of hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. It’s all tasty, but at the end, you’re still hungry for dinner.
“Eye of the Beholder” nonetheless offered some delectable bites: acrobatic partnering and well-drawn sketches exploring a range of emotions. The dances displayed a palette of moods from puppylike playfulness (one piece is from the perspective of a puppy) to the dark humor of using a sappy pop song for an encounter between a dominatrix and her submissive.
The show, in the intimate Malashock Dance studio last weekend, was a mix of old and new. Half the pieces were reprises, the earliest from 1996, and half premieres. In a similar vein, the cast featured both veteran company members—what a treat to see Christine Marshall again!—and some exciting newcomers.
Marshall, a spiky, angular dancer who always looks dangerous, paired with Justin Viernes for two premieres in which Malashock subverted cheery pop tunes. To “Go Away Little Girl,” Viernes tried to coax Marshall’s gaze away from her phone, but she was too obsessed to succumb to his boyish charm. They also did the dominatrix duet, to “I Love How You Love Me.”
Viernes stood out consistently. He was a strong partner in “Living with Others” (2001), catching Brittany Taylor’s flying leap and holding her from behind as she extended forward like a ship’s figurehead; and they did some tight unison work. In “Better Days” (2013) he lofted Marisa Shimano into an aerial backbend. “Face to Face” (2001), a duet with Darren Oei, had the evening’s juiciest chemistry. As the two men simultaneously confronted and supported each other, to music by cellist Maya Beiser, the feel was sexy yet sacred.
New company members Oei and Courtney Giannone brought a lovely Balinese feel to “Thread and Fray” (2017), to music by contemporary composer Sarah Kirkland Snider. Newbie Sarah Emmons was a striking warrior in a 1996 solo, “The Hunter.”
Among the evening’s premieres, several might be the seeds for extended pieces. Four dancers in diaphanous blue did swimmy moves in “Currents,” to a dreamlike Snider score. “Disappointment Lake” featured three women in old-fashioned ruffly dresses in an enigmatic scene. At one moment, they looked like angry babies. Later they did a zombie walk. I didn’t know what was going on, and it intrigued me.
Malashock used songs by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for his memorable “Love and Murder” about 15 years ago; the evening-length piece eventually became a film. He found another great Cave song for “The Carny,” a premiere where six dancers were figures from a creepy circus, complete with dancers hanging from rings.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Malashock may develop some of these sketches into longer, complex works. At the top of my wish list: a piece with a live performance of music by Snider, something Malashock has done powerfully with several other contemporary composers.
“Eye of the Beholder” ran last weekend only.