The 7th Street Metro station downtown typically features many kinds of human and mechanical motion -- but not normally dancing. On Sunday, however, award-winning locally based choreographer Loretta Livingston heightened the station’s everyday sights and added a layer of social commentary by staging a three-hour event titled “Almost There” on Platform 2, close to the junction of the Red and Blue lines.
Wearing red and blue street clothes periodically overlaid with white, Livingston and five other dancers joined composer Norman Beede’s sax and percussion trio in six-part performance segments (or “rounds”) lasting 35 to 45 minutes each. The order of the six parts changed from one round to the next, and in between came improvisational dancing and drumming.
Travelers watched or ignored the performance as they chose and, in turn, Livingston’s dancers sometimes mingled with them, as if part of the crowd, and sometimes focused solely on one another.
Gestural segments and videos projected onto the station’s walls and ceiling quoted but radically slowed or froze typical commuter actions, making travelers look at how they move in a train station from new perspectives. Lingering, loving encounters between dancers reminded people of the inner lives they put on hold when rushing from place to place and -- through contrast -- of the dehumanized motion that engulfs them at a station: the elevators and escalators rising and falling, and the trains coming and going in four directions.
Dancing in street shoes, Livingston seemed to aim for a plain-Jane movement style that wouldn’t look out of place next to all the routine activity on view. Nevertheless, such segments as her endearing duet with Gregory Barnett -- full of playful wiggles, switches in support, impromptu embraces -- looked anything but ordinary.
The steadiness of Patrick Damon Rago in extended, stamina-testing sequences and the ability of Alyson Jones and Heather Gillette to adapt to any partner’s actions or impetus also gave “Almost There” a dimension beyond site-specific functionalism.
Finally, Rachel Lopez waved goodbye to Blue Line passengers on the way to Long Beach with such tragic intensity that it was easy to imagine the tracks led to the River Kwai bridge or a fatal encounter with King Kong.