Relationship is Life

Dance+ 2014, Program II

Last week, Paula brought you a review of Program I for Conduit’s Dance+ performance series. This annual cross-disciplinary merger of talent has been running for three years. Essentially, the program asks choreographers, both emerging and established, to work with non-dancers. This is carefully curated by Conduit. I was there for year one and reviewed it for this blog.

Theme seems to be important for each iteration. With Program II (debuted last night and shall run tonight and tomorrow, July 19th) the common theme is Relationship. I use the big ‘R’ because it demands that.

Sometimes reviewers omit one of the most compelling reasons for their interpretation: their own subjective existence. Not me. If I am going through an unclear and sad break up and then I go to a dance series featuring five different works that each contemplate the nature of relationship, well, something is both soothing and unsettling about that and the reader deserves to know about it.

MG_4615-ZahraThe first of five works, Veil is choreographed and performed by Zahra Banzi, with video artist Dylan Wilber. It is about the self to self relationship. It features a neat shadow effect using video and live projection. The effect is technically difficult to understand, but that is motion magic. Sillouhette of a beautiful young woman wearing just a small, light shirt and underwear takes shape on screen. She dynamically moves through a range of steps within this small frame, holds still, then steps away and that shadow remains on screen.

Her separation from that shadow-self reveals the real-life counterpart while that shadow-self continues dancing. I noticed the shadow continued by reversing what had just been performed live. Her 3D self explores space, accurately matching up tempo music from Brambles and Dustin O’Halloran. The music, the choreography, the shadow, and the dancer each have their own seductive quality. There is a flavor of ecstatic dance in this one. As soon as I stepped out of that feeling of being drawn in and captured, I found myself entertained but not much more.

Veil reminded me of a thought that had occurred in recent days. Sometimes the arts can be equated to high brow entertainment by lacking deep, emotional value and range. Someone who goes to the strip club to watch a dance usually lacks emotional sensitivity and taste, but they share in common the same need as the viewer of contemporary dance: finding beauty in the world.

I see the talent and capacity for young Zahra Banzi to grow as an artist, because she is not lacking vision or motion. Maturity shall bring emotional depth and vulnerability to her work. In that case, her natural beauty can reveal ugliness in a profound way. You want to love Zahra, so if she puts her suffering on stage, it will inspire compassion in people. I urge her to explore that.

The second of five was quite the opposite. Before the Dawn by choreographer Meshi Chavez, set to music specially crafted by Roland Toledo, features two older dancers that move very slow. That is because it explores the spiritual principle of Butoh, Ankoku, seeking a sense of something that has no beginning or end. The scene is Man and Woman, perhaps age fifty, dressed in casual adult attire, slacks and shirt for the man and an elegant night dress for the woman. This is important because it sets a time-transcendent archetype.meshi-chavez-roland-toledo

Although at no time the couple on stage directly intermingles, there is a noticeable relationship between them. He seems to spend energy chasing her and she runs. She is distraught. Their relationship is struggle and struggle is life and such is the eternal problem of man and woman.

Musically, there is no tempo to speak of. It is a drone and dynamics are found within timber, sometimes becoming noisy. Like white noise. It does get loud. The screeching of all of the suffering of all the beings can be heard through the silent voice of the woman as drool oozes from her mouth to the floor. It is very engaging, their face expressive, determined, deliberate and feeling each step.

Sometimes when a piece is really engaging, I lose track of it. If it strikes a chord with something close to my heart, I can become preoccupied with my own self. I began thinking about my struggle with love presently. My personal troubles have no beginning or end and they really are not personal beyond the details.

The third work is a solo dance called Soundboard, performed and choreographed by Kyle Marshall. It is also engaging in that deeply compassionate way. I mean, I hope it is compassionate. I hope people view the work as an expression of universality and so apply compassion to the whole nature of human suffering. Because we are seeking salvation. In SoundBoard, poetry is spoken by Allen Ginsberg himself with Kyle’s movement expressing this idea of opening to receive the love and energy of God, like an open palm, like a flower.kyle-marshall-meagan-woods.widea

One’s relationship to God is undeniable, even though in the eternity of sentient beings one may deny that presence, but it would be denying one’s very nature and living presence in this grand universe. At least that is my impression of Ginsberg’s message of hope. Music by Jody Redhage is abstract and similar to the previous work: noisy and droning but also harmonic. This one is a little bit lovelier than the other. I don’t know how to describe exactly Kyle’s steps. But I believe he played the whole dynamic well and was very emotional.

During the 10-minute intermission, I had a plastic cup of red wine. It was good actually, French. I don’t recall the variety. But I had to help the friendly volunteer with opening the bottle. We all learn something every day. Relationship in action. We reconvened for two more works.

Confluence is actually a film by Christopher Peddecord & choreographer Lindsey Matheis. I have never seen anything like it. It is experimental, unique, and breaks new ground. But it does that in a way that looks like a Gap commercial, to quote my company last evening. The way this large group of dancers works within a small and gritty set, how that expands in to narrative between at least two specific people in the line, how it turns into fantasy begins to get really interesting right where it ends. Both visually and as a story, it starts going somewhere and ends, with a big old bold white overlay of the word CONFLUENCE. Might as well say GAP. It would win a CLIO award. The word ‘confluence’ should never be a title to contemporary art because that is what contemporary art is.

There is nothing linear about it, not a bad thing, but it doesn’t lead the viewer where they need to look, nor does it clearly point to the relationship we need to see. I guess there is not a deep lasting impression from it all. I was entertained. I’m sorry but I have run out of words on that.

This brings us to the final work. Radiation City comes from “radical child” and “tacobob” as well as music group, Radiation City. Performed by a pair of adorable hipster attired dancers with a knack for chit chat, cut in with classic silent film style shorts laying out scenarios of man and woman meeting, a fun interactive performance rolls out in three parts.

First, the unlikely scenario, in which they pounce on each other and fall in love. Then the possible scenario, in which she is rejected, but when they do get together they only fight. Then the probable scenario, a middle-way, in which they fight and love and co-exist. Each scenario is laid out in video, then acted out in dance. The dance does not necessarily match the video. For instance, in scenario three, man neither rejects woman nor approaches her, she neither reaches out to him nor pulls away. You know, when you’re at the café or wherever and you’re attracted to someone but do absolutely nothing about it. When the scenario is danced out, they find themselves together, having trouble but working it on it.radical-child-kara-girod-10

So back to the subjective. I feel like the troubled relationship in my life started out like scenario one: instant attraction and effortless bonding. It soon became more like scenario three; together but troubled. I am grateful and full of hope, reaching like Ginsberg to the life energy of God, because that love never spoiled like scenario two.

The stage is set pretty simply beyond the projection screen. There is a little house with crude scrawling on it, “take me home”, and it definitely makes one think of domestication. It is the ending we all want for all our relationships, good or bad. Whatever home is to us, that is where we want to be, and we don’t want to be there alone.

For more information about tickets and such, please visit Conduit Dance.

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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