Dance is one of the most expressive forms of performance art, where artists push their bodies to their limits to convey intense emotion and profound narratives. As part of the “Happenings” series at the Denizen Theatre, New York City based art collective HUMA presented their performance “Two is You,” a dance performance exploring the life cycle and development of relationships.
HUMA is also the resident company of Arts On Site, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to providing studio space to other artists. The dance was performed and conceived by Arts On Site Executive Director Chelsea Ainsworth, and HUMA Artistic Director Doron Perk.
“Two is You” was created in parts over the course of three years. Over time, it became the full-fledged performance it is currently. It is arranged in several clearly defined and structured acts, but there’s plenty of room for improvisation as well.
“We react to each other with every movement, and even when something is strictly set, there is always room to make new choices while performing,” Ainsworth said. “I’d say one third of the performance is improvised. I never know what [Perk] will choose to do, that is one reason I love working with him. It’s always a surprise!”
The dancing itself was incredibly fluid and emotive, reflecting that improvisatory nature and the frenetic energy of being in a relationship. Ainsworth and Perk would regularly get in close contact with one another throughout the performance, mirroring each other’s movements and playfully moving one another’s limbs. They also made use of props throughout the performance, including a mobile garment rack and articles of clothing. In addition, Ainsworth and Perk let the audience fold the clothes at the beginning and end of the performance.
“We wanted the space to immediately look different as you enter the theatre. Not an empty space with people sitting in their chairs waiting for the show to start, but a lively room being slowly organized by a group of people chatting,” Ainsworth said. “Using the task of folding clothes we meet the audience, get a chance to have a bit of small talk and hopefully create a new layer of intimacy with them before they watch us dance.”
The soundtrack was dominated by jazz, but it also included classical music and even Israeli pop. The lighting changed from one scene to the next, ranging from clear, white light to a deep, passionate red to a somber, dark blue, among many other colors. There were also slower, more introspective moments in the performance, particularly near its opening and closing acts.
The Denizen’s relationship to HUMA and Arts On Site began when Ben Williamson, co-artistic director of the Denizen, met with AOS Creative Director Kyle Netzeband. “Awhile back I connected with Kyle, and he was mentioning to me about his life as an artist…” Williamson said. “It was a really great conversation, [and] we really connected.” Netzeband would then approach the Denizen Theatre with “Two is You,” and not long after with performance was arranged by Co-Artistic Director Brittany Proia.
Ainsworth hopes the audience walks away with a new sense of connectedness with one another. “Two is You” is primarily about relating to each other without words,” Ainsworth said. “We want the audience to leave with the feeling of wanting to open up to someone, play and trust the people around them and be inspired to move.”
The Denizen’s Theatre- next show will be “Sender,” written by Ike Holter and directed by Martine Kei Green-Rogers, and will run from Oct. 2 to 27.