Review: To Open Performance Space New York, ‘visions of beauty’


It’s a treat to enter the larger studio of the refurbished Performance Space New York, formerly Performance Space 122, for the first time. The inaugural production, “visions of beauty,” by the Seattle choreographer Heather Kravas, opened on Wednesday night.

The studio, one of two new theaters, is basically a cube shape: a black wooden floor (3,660 square feet) is matched in color by three tall walls, one of which contains a small gallery. The fourth wall, with exposed brickwork, has two rows of black-edged windows with a south-facing view. On summer evenings, this may prove magical. Already the glimpses of varied architecture cast a spell.

It will take time to adjust to much that’s new about this old building, which began life as a public school, on First Avenue and Ninth Street in the East Village. The new ground-floor entrance makes a difference to First Avenue itself. We’ll soon get used to the building’s elegant modernity, but just now those of us with memories of the old PS122 can be only startled by the lack of shabbiness.


Mixing it up in “visions of beauty.” Credit Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

A series of studies in minimalism, “visions of beauty” showed off the dimensions and potential of the new space in several ways: The nine dancers lay in various X formations on different parts of the floor, or stood or moved in vertical and horizontal lines. At its most exuberant, the piece featured chains of dancers running around like spinning spokes.

The performance, part of the part of the final Coil Festival, prompted a number of questions. Since one sequence of slow-changing horizontal patterns kept bringing dancers’ mouths, torsos and groins close together, how erotically suggestive was this meant to be? Since there were eight men and one woman, in what ways was gender an issue? Since the woman and seven of the men performed a central section naked, and since there was no uniform body type, what points about the body — stationary or in motion — were being made? I mean it as a compliment to say that answers kept changing.

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