Festival Interdisciplinary

T:BA Mid-Week | Standing on the Bubble

T:BA has been and continues to be roughly a month-long program including the visual art. The feature performances on two successive weekends create an expanding bubble that pops on the Saturday night preceding final events on Sunday. The broadest curve happens during mid-week; this is also when things start to reach maximum tension. Being a ten-day performance program, the visual art can be something you accomplish during mid-week. Or, like me, you work during the day and this weekend is the best time.

But during this time, you can also forget that personal life and work must fit in somewhere. You might even get a little sloppy with things and basically miss stuff.

Tuesday, September 17, I went to the free film screening, Movement Revolution. It was hosted at Living Room Theaters. Seats were added to accommodate the intimate audience. My seat was so cozy and the music and dialogue so relaxing that after finishing off sweet potato fries, I periodically dozed off right in my seat. I hope nobody noticed that I was “relaxing my eyes”. But for the record, some important points were well received about African dance and the cross over of contemporary and ancient/traditional/western, a composite that I particularly love. But I really dozed for brief stints so no review.

I couldn’t get in to the Third Angle New Music event at OMSI Planetarium. Sold out audience—my pass rendered useless. In a perfectly engineered light/soundproof room, the intimacy combined with sound must be unique. Moreover, the musicians are doing this in the dark. That’s a trip. During the Harvest Full Moon, there was a midnight show. I was asleep in bed. But I have a feeling, sleeping in that room would have been amazing.

Attendance seems to be record-breaking. After attending all these years, 85% capacity became my expectation. Last year apparently dipping below that, I am amazed that almost everything I go to reaches capacity. Some things sold out in advance.

Wednesday, September 18th, I enjoyed Laura Arrington & Jesse Hewitt performing ADULT. Rarely do I want to give a standing ovation. I do not exactly know why I did. I will admit that I was with a new romantic interest watching it and that feeling, that tingling newness was the perfect compliment to this show. It also doesn’t hurt that they provide a table full of wine and bourbon at the start, then follow up with whatever leftover booze plus children’s breakfast cereal at the end.

More importantly, it defied my expectations. I was expecting crass adult themes. The picture above makes it look like another anti-performance in which audiences are supposed to be taken aback and shocked. There was a little of that, but when it did pop up, there was very little uncalculated about it.

Laura Arrington offers a tremendous tap dance at the beginning, occupying the entire open warehouse where The Works is staged. Jesse Hewitt provides a haunting opening in total stillness just before the whole thing cracks and explodes in to an energetic freak out. A sort of body sculpting moment happens after this as they coalesce in an intimate, asexual yet provocative series of contortions.

Mid-show, the audience is moved from their original vantage point, being turned around to look at a stage that had just been our seating area, confronted suddenly with the emotion “YIKES!”

The ensuing performance calls attention to our preoccupation with celebrating suffering and sacrifice in the name of performing perfection. While rebelling against the shackles of training, they are performing with total virtuosity and making it look out of control. The combined love and irreverence with risk and self-control makes for a beautiful experience.

Thursday, September 19th, it was made easy to start swinging again because both featured events were presented at the Imago Theater, those being Itai Erdal and Bouchra Ouizguen. A mid-review footnote about festival organizing is expanding in the next two paragraphs. Skip them to go straight to performance reviews.

I recall in 2007 when I had a difficult time making every performance, fully mobile by bike and car. But in 2008, then Artistic Director Mark Russell reported in an interview on my radio program that scheduling was streamlined to enhance FLOW, by scheduling with the intent that audience members have more capability to fully utilize their pass.

In 2013, that concept is being fully realized. Consolidation of venues at The Works has greatly enhanced things while venues are more interrelated to scheduling than ever. Standard 6:30 / 8:30 / 10:30 show times have become an expectation at T:BA and it makes things much easier to attend. Moreover, the relatively open schedule this weekend makes it possible to visit all visual art exhibitions, and I make a promise to achieve that with my coverage.

Starting with HA! (Bouchra) we are deeply considering the effects of trance as well as female roles, not without a sense of humor. In a field where technical virtuosity hugs irreverence to sustain disbelief long enough to overshadow conceptual modern dance, this performance, still under the contemporary post-modern prefix, holds a transcendental exploration and journey for public view—something that fully escapes concepts, intellectualism, and rooted in faith ensues.

The opening scene sets the trance. The lighting here actually gives a callback to Itai Erdal’s earlier demonstration of stage spotlights at diminishing power levels, starting at full, he dropped them incrementally with a suspenseful 5…4…3…2…1% power countdown. Somehow, that bit of light brings out the magic of awareness when counting down. HA! begins out of darkness. In those increments, light ramps up until the dancers are visible.

In the darkness, dancers all in tight black uniform, single white scarf caps slowly illuminate, seeing first the mysterious white tubes moving like deep sea creatures, and you realize its four women with heads banging like Dave Grohl drumming for Nirvana. Simultaneously, their breathing becomes murmur, their murmur becomes chanting, their chanting becomes song, and the song becomes everything. At this point, they begin moving, after head banging in one spot for ten minutes—but they keep head banging! No doubt, these women are entranced.

What unfolds is a series of changes in the chants and movement in such a way that it all seems organic. It is fascinating to observe conceptually, but it should more closely find you in the heart and third eye.

Bouchra is the Choreographer and in this spiritual act takes on the role of warrior, leading the group physically through the journey. However, it is, I believe, Fatema El Hanna leading the spirit of the women. This is observable because they follow Bouchra across the stage, imitating steps and gestures, where as Fatema leads the chanting and shifts everyone’s tone.

In the post-show talk, we learned that the 60-minute performance is timed and directions are known. In the program guide, you will see that the mystic poet, Rumi, influences all this. How this relates to the role of women starts with two major points.

First, in standard Moroccan practice, the men lead the chants. These chants are essentially living traditions. Secondly, from a contemporary dance perspective, these are not fine arts graduates claiming indigenous concepts; these are old mountain women with heavy bodies, wrinkles, and limited capacity in movement. They are as beautiful to observe as the young Bouchra, leading them with the more typical virtuosity of a contemporary, trained dancer.

Itai Erdal with The Chop Theatre preceded all of that. I had to see it because I’m a sucker for Radiohead references. That was made clear when he opened the performance with the first half of that song How To Disappear Completely with the audience in full light, stage darkened.

It was an enjoyable, fairly non-threatening performance. Definitely one of the more bubbly performances of T:BA this year. However, it is not easy subject matter. The monologue is about Itai’s mother dying of cancer, supported with video clips, lighting tricks, and a mid-show solo dance party.

Weaving a humorous monologue between his love life, dying mother, his family in general and professional career as a lighting designer, the audience is quickly won over.

Itai is that likeable friend of everybody that always has success in life but probably has at least one thread of relationship turmoil going on; the slow untimely death and suffering of his mother seemed to count for a lot in his mid-life. But he also exclaims, “I have been in love twenty-three times.” Then he admitted something I relate to wholly. His love is so immediate and intense that he starts expounding with them on the future that he envisions but fails to even get to know these women properly—hence remaining a single man. He does not discount his capacity to love—and that is what makes you love him.

He operates the show with a lighting controller in his hand most of the time. If you are a lighting tech, you’ll enjoy this. I think one could use this performance as an educational video, coming from a leader in the field of theatrical light design, doing a theatrical performance. Surely, many years in the field offered him the insight to perform a smart theater show too.

Now going headlong in to the weekend. Nothing else in life counts. Obsession becomes productive. Talk to you soon.


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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