Both Sitting Duet
The New York Times, March 19th 2004
A Conversation Composed of Gestures
A hot topic in dance aesthetics courses a few decades ago was what makes a dance a dance. Both Sitting Duet, which was performed by its creators, Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, on Saturday night at The Kitchen, would likely have sent those professors and students into a tizzy. It was certainly one of the funniest and most ingenious 'dances' seen in New York in a long time.
Mr. Burrows, a British choreographer and dancer, and Mr. Fargion, an Italian composer, sat next to each other in wooden chairs for nearly all of the hour long piece. They moved their arms and their feet in a silent conversation governed, it seemed, by the musical score that lay at their feet. There was no formal accompaniment, though the ambient sounds made by smacking hands and occasionally thunking feet would have probably qualified in Cageian terms. But for all the obliqueness of the piece, which had its American premiere, it communicated a good deal more than the rigors of its conception and execution.
The gestures, performed in a flowing, fast-paced mesh of rhythms and color that was comparable to notes in a traditional musical score, sometimes suggested recognizable activities like shooing pigeons. More than that, however, the men worked with an engaging air of complicity, moving in counterpoint, in unison or on their own, amusingly, like the aberrant pistons to be seen in Balanchine's 'Concerto Barocco'. They smiled slightly at times, at each other or in outward gazes across the audience. It was a bit of a shock when a clap of hands suddenly broke the silence, or when they jumped to their feet to continue, momentarily, behind the chairs. Both Sitting Duet began with a simple walk onto the stage and lowering of the house lights. It ended with the men's hands subsiding into their laps, only pausing, it seemed. For all the demands of the piece on its performers, this was clearly a conversation, without arguments or forcefully made points, to be continued at irregular moments in the onrush of life