Review: “OnlyHuman” at St. Mark’s Church

 Mei Yamanaka in Christine Bonansea's OnlyHuman at Danspace Project. Photo by Gaia Squarci.

Mei Yamanaka in Christine Bonansea's OnlyHuman at Danspace Project. Photo by Gaia Squarci.

Anthony J. Piccione

  • Associate New York Critic

The subject of human behavior, its frequent contradictions, and how it often can lead to destructive behavior in society, is often a common topic of worthy discussion, both in the arts and among philosophers. One of the great texts to touch on this topic is "Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits" by 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzche. Now, in 2018, prolific choreographer has adapted Nietzche’s work for the arts through her brilliant new conceptual dance piece “OnlyHuman”.

The movement portion starts off calmly and slowly, with only the main solo performer Mei Yamanaka onstage, rotating from silent poses to modest, almost robotic movements before gradually building up and being joined for the more intense second half by the entire ensemble of dancers in the show. The show is choreographed beautifully by Ms. Bonansea, and the dancers perform some of the most vigorous movements I’ve seen in awhile. It all happens throughout the entire large space at St. Marks Church, to the point where it eventually made sense to me why, prior to this show, I and other theatergoers were asked to keep our bags FULLY under our chairs: So there would be no shortage of space for these performers! To put it simply, these performers alone are the reason why we go to dance shows like this, in the first place.

However, what truly stands out most about this particular show, and makes it a true spectacle, is its lighting and projection design. From the very beginning, the video projections – which feel reminiscent of old-school, point-of-view horror films – leave all audiences on the edge of their seat and wondering what will happen for the rest of the evening, with incredible bright of often colored lighting, as well as deft usage of lasers and fog machines, setting the atmosphere and tone for the show, and taking this reviewer’s breath away. Without a doubt, the production value of this show is easily among the best I’ve seen not just in most dance shows I’ve reviewed, but in most independent artistic productions I’ve reviewed anywhere as a critic within the past few years.

Like many dance shows I’ve reviewed in recent months, this run of “OnlyHuman” was relatively short, and unfortunately, I am not able to recommend any upcoming performances, as a result. However, I certainly hope that Ms. Bonansea will consider exploring the possibility of bringing back this piece, at some point in the near future. It’s a wonderful spectacle that is as thought-provoking as it is visually stunning, and it deserves to be seen by as many theatergoers as possible.

 

ONLYHUMAN

 “OnlyHuman” – based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphoristic volume “Human, All Too Human” – was conceived and is choreographed by Christina Bonansea.

“OnlyHuman” features solo performer Mei Yamanaka; dance performers Malcolm-x Betts, Ichi Go, Alvaro Gonzalez Dupuy, Charles Gowin, Amelia Heintzelman, Becca Loevy, Cameron Mckinney, Maya Orchin, and Kristopher K.Q. Pourzal; lighting design from Solomon Weisbard; music composition from Nicole Carroll; graphic programming/video from Yoann Trellu; and publicity from Kamila Slawinski and Ivan Talijancic.

“OnlyHuman” ended its run at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, located at 131 East 10th Street, New York, NY, on November 17th.