Brilliant Corners is the title of the new, one-hour piece Emanuel Gat, the Israeli-French choreographer, is presenting at the Durham Performing Arts Center this weekend, as the American Dance Festival continues its season. Brilliant, or least harshly bright, is the light forming a sharp rectangle on the stage. The work, however, does not shine, except in short bursts, quickly over. That may be Gat’s point — that life is an extended frustration, fractured and often ugly, but pierced occasionally with tiny stars of beauty, made bearable a little longer by tiny moments of connection. His larger oeuvre suggests this. Or, as his program statement here suggests, perhaps this work is merely choreography about choreography, not a dance but a physical expression of a conceptualization about “a flow of kinetic events.” Gat also wrote the score, which includes a great deal of unpleasant sound and even more of silence, and he designed the lighting, so we can presume that this piece expresses his current philosophy as completely as possible.
Watching Brilliant Corners felt somewhat like reading the dictionary in poor light. Information crowds together and taunts you with itself, while remaining impenetrable to understanding. Here the dancers rush about, moving through a compendium of choreographic vocabulary. Just when something might really happen, the imagery changes. The piece includes some swift instants of intrigue and beauty, but the better part of it just seems to, in the words of my companion, “make the mundane even more mundane.” The dancers’ clothing mostly looks like workout clothes that have been slept in, but two women wear very short shorts and white blouses. They both have legs worthy of the shorts, and Gat sometimes gives them ravishing bits of dancing — by far the most engrossing minutes of the long hour.
The big problem with art about mundanity, or art about itself, is that it tends to be boring. Usually I have no problem being engrossed by an artwork (the problem is disengaging), but during this performance, my mind kept straying to my grocery list and other dull topics I expect art to keep at bay. As I heard a woman say on the way out, “I’m glad there was no intermission so I didn’t have to go back in.”