Even before “Black Hole: Trilogy and Triathlon” begins, it is already in intriguing motion. As you take your seat at New York Live Arts, you can make out a bumpy mound on the floor of the darkened stage. The points of light that illuminate this blob circulate and swell, so it seems alive. Is something in there?
Yes, it turns out. As from a cocoon, a body emerges headfirst from the tarp — Shamel Pitts, the choreographer of this Afrofuturist work, which had its New York premiere on Thursday. Two more bodies follow: Tushrik Fredericks and Marcella Lewis, members of Tribe, the multidisciplinary artist collective that Pitts directs.
These bodies are bronzed and creaturely. These are dancers of strong presence and control. As if evolving, they slither, then crawl and crab walk, then stand and run. The progression is slow and collective. The three hinging bodies are often linked, stacked, nested. They pause together and look up into the light, out into the cosmos, as people in science fiction films do.
That light, video projection by Lucca Del Carlo, is lunar. It can feel as if you’re watching through night vision goggles. The sci-fi sound score, by Sivan Jacobovitz with editing by Zen Jefferson, suggests the hum and rumble of a spaceship with choirs (bits of John Tavener’s “Funeral Canticle”) rising out of ambient synths — until the thumping turns into a pulse, a beat. It’s the birth of the club.
By this point, the lights are swirling like the aurora borealis and the undulant dancers are waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care. A supernova burst sends them spinning together as on a teacup ride and then out of one another’s orbits. Isolated, each in a different hue (red, blue, green), they move alone. Hopeful radio fragments of Nina Simone come through — “new dawn,” “new day” — but the dancers crumple, hands to faces.
Eventually, they join together again in a series of sculptural embraces, huddled against the void and the cosmic chill but also handsomely arranged for a fashion shoot. The whole hourlong work, the final installment in a trilogy with “Black Box” and “Black Velvet,” is curiously stylish and sincere, glossily cold and tender. Always visually striking, it’s never dull. But it transpires at a distance.
When the three crawl back into the cocoon, it’s not the end. With the tarp as a cloak or cape, they become other composite creatures. Lewis, losing the others, looks for a moment like the prow of a spaceship. Star-points of light seem to be sucked into the center of the rear wall, the black hole where the three stand embracing. That’s where we lose them in the dark.
Shamel Pitts | Tribe
Through Saturday at New York Live Arts; newyorklivearts.org.