Movement artist Matt Drews creeps across the studio floor like a beautiful version of Gollum, the efforts of each muscle and tendon visible with the exaggerated slowness of his movements. Occasionally rising to a standing position, Drews’s tall frame moves with the illusion of being propelled only by the balls of his feet rolling against the floor. Arms outstretched and bent at a dramatic angle as if his elbows were hanging from invisible ceiling hooks, Drews spins around like a marionette and then stops to face the audience with his hands up, moving in subtle “come hither” motions.

Drews elicits complicated responses from his audience with a harmonious, smart mix of familiar movements, a primary mark of his background in the Gaga dance style. Gaga is a form of dance and a language for describing movement, invented by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin and used primarily by the Martha Graham-founded Batsheva Dance Company, as well as Drews’s former teacher and artistic collaborator Danielle Agami. Rather than utilizing the dance vocabulary common in ballet and contemporary circles, such as arabesque for the position of standing one leg with the other extended to the back, or pirouette for a one-legged turn, Gaga uses descriptive terms for movements based on how those movements feel or look. It is a philosophy as much as a language and style of art that incorporates how the choreographers and dancers view their own bodies as existing in the world around them.

Q: Why is six afraid of seven? A: Because Danielle Agamis ATE9!
Q: Why is six afraid of seven? A: Because Danielle Agami's ATE9! Scott Simock

Drews studied Gaga extensively with Agami, and previous collaborations with ATE9 have dramatically affected his work. “I want to acknowledge my roots with Danielle and Gaga, that circularity of having my own voice and work presented side by side with my origins.” Drews’s approach with this piece is to tie in that Gaga style with his own explorations of the German philosophy of Weltgeist (World Spirit). The result is highly abstract even for the fringiest dance performances—much of the second section of Weltgeist isn’t specifically choreographed. “I’m less interested in group unison choreography and replication of movements, which I see as a commodification of art for easy sale. In Weltgeist, I create a highly specific structure that corresponds to triggers in (St. Genet’s) Gareck Jon Druss’s live music. Gareck and I are having an organic conversation that I respond to.”

Matt Drews performs The Weltgeist in a joint program with Danielle Agami’s ATE9 company's mouth to mouth, this weekend at Velocity Dance Center.