Gray Matter is the newest work produced by Jasmine Nunn during her residency at [nueBOX]. Throughout the work, Nunn does an excellent job of portraying strong technical skills through subtle, gestural movement. It takes a strong creator to focus their work on the strength of the choreography and simultaneaously execute their strength as a mover, instead of creating work with flashy movement as the basis of the work
The piece opens with Nunn facing the audience straight on. She moves through a series of gesture with a clear grid patterning throughout the space. Each gesture seems to correspond with a specific spot on the grid, and as the piece progresses, she includes and sense of urgency. These gestures includes pulling up her shirt sleeve, facing the audience and biting, and having her elbows connect near her chest and moving in a circle.
The simplicity of each gesture is executed with clear distinction and has a healthy balance of pedestrian movement and unique phrase-work. The clarity keeps the audience engaged throughout what may otherwise be considered a simple phrase.
When speaking with Nunn, she talks about how the grid patterning was intentionally there to represent the idea of connecting different pieces together in life, and trying to discover a clear pathway in decision making. Although it is normally difficult to detect specific meaning with movement, her intention was clearly conveyed to the audience.
The work then shifts to a new place. The lights become dimmer, while Nunn is found crouched on the floor with her chin resting on her hand. She rocks back and forth creating the sensation that her head is moving along with the music’s momentum. She moves into a side plank. Again, she repeats this movement over and over until she suddenly flips over herself in a pseudo cartwheel with grace and control. This is the first moment within the piece where is it clear that Nunn posses great control and strength as a mover. However, she managed to do it in a way that was not over the top or distracting to subtle movement that had been highlighted throughout the opening portion of the piece.
A projection appears in the center of the space, showing a recording of Nunn’s torso and head. Nunn’s shadow is shown within the projection of the space creating a relationship between her live body and her projected body, until she exits the space and allow the video to play on its own.
Throughout the projection, previous gestures that had been shown throughout the work were played again. There was a moment where her head drops down, creating the illusion that she is banging her head on the floor. Another moment, she wiggles her fingers, but they are cut off because of the floor, however, having seen it previously in the work, it became fascinating to follow how the gestures can shift so drastically due to the new sizing of her body in the space. The projection was then resized as a much smaller version where here head was cut off, but you could see more of her torso.
It was captivating to see how the movement could be interpreted so differently based on its orientation within the space. It would have been nice to see more of Nunn’s physical body/shadow and the projections interact with one another, however, that brief moment of it was captivating within itself.
Nunn re-enters the space, but with a whole new intention. This time her hands are in her pockets and she seems to be stumbling around the space without any clear patterning. Nunn intentionally used this as a contrast from the clear grid movement to highlight how often life can feel aimless without a clear patterning. The section expressed how we make choices and process information, sometimes with clear intent and other times without a strong sense of where we are.
Nunn’s walking moved into some larger movement phrases that really showed her strength, flexibility and grace. This contrast from the opening kept the audience intrigued as they were able to see a new side of Nunn as a dancer.
The projections then returned a second time. This time, Nunn was projected on two walls framing her head and torso. Again, there was movement from earlier in the piece shown, however showing two projections and framing the body differently highlighted the movement in a new way, and allowed for the solo work to seem more like a group work.
The two projections moved in sync with one another, adding a new layer of interest for the audience. What was truly captivating about the use of projections is how well it accented the space. It forced the audience to see the body in a new frame work, and look at the space from a different angle. The projections enhanced the movement, added new layers to the piece, and highlighted the space it was presented in.
For the final section, Nunn came back into the space and performed large phrase work again. This created a nice build to the piece as a whole, and allowed for the audience to really indulge in watching Nunn perform as a mover. When she would go into an inversion, it was easy to see her strength and control. When she would move her legs into a ponche, her flexibility and grace became apparent.
The contrast of the larger movement and the gestural movement in "Gray Matter" really exemplified Nunn's versatility as a mover, and commitment to her choreography. Instead of focusing on showing off her abilities as a mover, she put her choreographic integrity at the forefront of the work.
Overall, Nunn was able to create a work that allowed you to enjoy a wide range of movement with a cohesive build that kept the audience engaged. From the simplicity of gesture, to the complexity of large movement, to the symbolism of patterning, and to the uniqueness that new framing has to offer: Nunn’s work captured it all.
For more information on Jasmine Nunn's project "Gray Matter" visit: www.nuebox.org/JasmineNunn.
This review along with other reviews of art in the valley can also be read on The Arts Beacon: www.theartsbeacon.com.