The premise of their work was intriguing: A response to a lost dance-play written, directed and choreographed by Cunningham with a score for piano and voice by John Cage. “Four Walls” was only performed once, in 1944, making this reimagined version something of a fantasy dance: What were Cage and Cunningham all about in the earliest days of their collaboration?
There were also mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors. They enclosed the stage in a way that doubled and tripled the cast of 25, including the musician Vanessa Wagner, whose piano, placed toward the right side of the stage, served as a kind of anchor against the lines and swirls of bodies. The piece opened with a diagonal row of dancers facing a mirror. Soon, they begin to dip into spurts of motion, dropping their shoulders, raising their arms high or lowering into deep pliés.
Their costumes, shorts and tops in shades of mainly white, gray and black — by Jacobsson, Caley, Augsbourger and Annabelle Saintier — were a mix of playsuit and athleisure. As members of the cast lengthened their torsos into slow forward stretches, they seemed to be less performing a dance than warming up before class while waiting for the teacher to arrive. Sometimes it looked as if they were marking movement; within wispy phrases, their curving spines and highly coordinated control made reference to Cunningham, but it was softer, as if it wasn’t fully integrated in their bodies. Sometimes it had the generic look of Gaga.
And there were those mirrors. The set, also by Jacobsson and Caley, shimmering under Eric Wurtz’s lighting, was the most arresting part of “Walls.” That scenery made the most grounded statement about the push and pull between infinity and legacy — in dance, nothing lasts forever.
But Cunningham wasn’t the only ghost in the room. Paul Taylor was even more present, from “Last Look,” a dance about despair that uses mirrors to haunting effect, to “Esplanade,” his celebration of pedestrian movement. In one scene in “Walls,” the dancers even vaulted fearlessly into one another’s arms. But so much was missing from this room. The set didn’t enhance the dance, the set was the dance. It was like watching magic: You not only knew the trick, you knew you were being tricked.