One, presented by Stephanie Nugent. At Los Angeles’s Diavolo
Performance Space, Sunday, December 10.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer
Appearing recently at the Brewery Arts
Center in downtown L.A., Santa Barbara dancer and choreographer
Stephanie Nugent shifted into a whole new realm of power, taking
command of the stage and devouring space with more impact than her
slight frame suggests should be possible. In the opening piece, “In
the Shadow of the Red Brick,” Nugent explored the ways in which her
family legacy has formed her personality, using playfulness to
probe her own habits, preferences, and compulsions. “I’m still
terribly stubborn,” said a recorded voice, as Nugent lunged around
in a polka-dotted dress, trying to control a miniature chair.
When Nugent returned to the stage for “Circa One,” she lowered
her face and held her hands near her belly, holding an invisible
substance close to her core. In sections, she closed her eyes,
feeling the space around her with fingers outstretched, searching.
Rather than looking for herself within the confines of what is
visible and tangible, she pushed out beyond the limits of her body,
seeking something hidden. “Wintering” split open the raw and
painful center of it all, plunging Nugent and the audience into a
terrifying yet utterly natural ritual of turning inward. Nugent
appeared in a swath of white fabric, which she bunched around her
thighs in clenched fists, her body taut with frustration and fear.
Standing at the front of the stage she stammered, howled, and
yelped, producing the harrowing noises of a tortured animal. Later,
she clucked and cooed like a fledgling owl as she picked her way
through the barren, wintry landscape of a pile of dead twigs,
finally standing again at the edge of the stage, pleading for
reconnection. The effect was deeply moving and immensely
“Untitled Interior” continued the journey to the innermost realm
of being. Nugent was inspired by her studies of Iranian laws
regarding women’s use of the veil. “Untitled Interior” placed
Nugent as a body among sweeping, gauzy fabric sets. At first clad
in similar material, she removed her sheath dress to dance topless.
Though her body was more fully revealed, she appeared distant,
traveling into a selfless space where movement seemed devotional
and reverent, and the body became a vehicle for prayer.