Review: Gallim’s Dancing Waves of Contractions and Contortions

In Hebrew, “gallim” means waves, so it’s fitting that a big one crashes onto the stage — not actual water, but rippling fabric — in the latest production by Gallim, a Brooklyn company led by the choreographer Andrea Miller.

But a wave can be oppressive, too. In “To Create a World,” which had its premiere on Tuesday at the Joyce Theater, Ms. Miller delivers theme upon theme through the twisting, writhing bodies of her dancers. There is a birth-to-death (and maybe back to birth?) cycle; a full-throttle unleashing of the body in order to survive; and the familiar struggle between pleasure and pain.

Missing within those motifs, which repeat yet rarely develop, is momentum. In this dark and foggy world, set to an original score by the composer and multi-instrumentalist Will Epstein, one section rolls into the next as bodies contract and contort, reaching in anguish before snapping into another pose.

Before the work begins, a piece of white spandex is spread across the width of the stage; as the audience files in, bulges in the stretchy fabric make it apparent that a body is trying to press through from behind. Eventually, Allysen Hooks rolls out from under it, her nude body tense and strained. The fabric disappears and suddenly dancers — wearing minimal, athletic costumes by Jose Solis — whip across the stage with windmilling arms and explosive jumps until they fall into formation of brisk backward walks in a circle.

Ms. Hooks is joined by Gary Reagan, a dancer so rangy and angular that he can look more insect than human; arching back, his torso unfurls so slowly that you start to count his ribs. Mr. Reagan is astounding, and in this unusual body Ms. Miller has a dancer able to reveal the soulful, strange side of sorrow.

But much of the choreography, created in collaboration with the dancers — all vigorous and capable — has a quality of generic dance phrases pasted together. After the wave swirls across the stage, Mr. Reagan, poised against a red sky, is a more captivating sight as he emerges alone, moving haltingly. He balances on his shoulders and eventually rises to stand, walking with splayed feet and high, jerking knees.

In the end, Haley Sung — wrapped in orange fabric — spins across the stage like a dervish, yet this final declaration of emotion feels incidental. In this relentless world of Ms. Miller’s making, expression may be in abundance, but there’s too little to bind it together.

Through Sunday at the Joyce Theater, Manhattan; 212-242-0800,

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