Friday, February 03, 2006

Dancing on the Edge

How often do you get the chance to watch someone dance with a Sousaphone, while someone else roller blades around the stage? Not often, I suspect. If the notion intrigues you, get yourself to UCD’s Main Theater this weekend to see “Awake Now and Then,” the second half of a program called “Dancing on the Edge.”

“Dancing on the Edge” consists of two pieces by Granada Artists-in-Residence, Doug Varone and Joanna Haigood.

Varone’s piece, Fractured Lives, opens the 2 hour show. It is performed by Jennie Amaral, Mary Elizabeth Anderson, Kelsey Cassady, Robert Coverdell, Anna Feldman, Brennan Figari, Hector Marin-Rodas, Meghan Moyle, David Orzechowicz, Whitney Peterson, Brian Runstrom and Alice Vasquez and is described by Varone as being “loosely based on images from several films from the 1930s and 1940s film noir era.”

Costume and scenic designer Victoria Livingston-Hall and lighting Designer Javan Cayo Johnson played a big part in creating the film noir look. Costumes were all in black, white, or shades of grey. The set, an interior room, was all done in grey and white, and the lighting, most of it from the top straight down, cast shadows on the figures of the performers, which, again added to the film noir look.

There were two exceptionally moving points of this piece, one with a man and a woman on the floor, alternately tender and violent, painting a picture without words of the relationship between the two.

Later, there was a poignant moment when a man turns on a movie on the far wall of the room. The “movie” is a life figure of a woman he obviously loved, who has obviously died. The effect is beautifully haunting, as he approaches the “screen” and begins to interact with her, only to have to leave her there as he turns off the projector.

This was the outstanding moment of this piece for me.

The delightful “Awake Now and Then,” choreographed by Joanna Haigood in collaboration with dancers Rebecca Abdenour, Mary Elizabeth Anderson, Christina Fajardo, Anna Feldman, Meghan Moyle, Hector Marin-Rodas, Whitney Peterson, Mary Ann Reveles, Brian Runstrom, Derricka Smith and Alice Vasquez, opens on a half-bare stage, with pieces of the previous number and several ladders standing around. To the Ink Spots’ “My Shadow, My Echo and Me,” the set pieces begin to be moved off, the ladders moved around, and the dancing starts.

Haigood, director of San Francisco’s Zaccho Dance Theater, is known for her use of aerial flight and suspension and those elements are hinted at in her work.

The moving set, a play on ideas of states of consciousness, includes a series of ladders and doors that allows dancers to interact with the underlying mechanisms of the theater. As the music segues into “Begin the Beguine,” the light casts shadows of the dancers on the back wall.

It is at once a shadow puppet theater, a living M.C. Escher drawing, as the bodies climb stairs to nowhere, open doors that open on nothing, and climb down again, at odd angles, and a bit of a circus, with a Sousaphone player walking through the action while being circled by a woman on roller blades.

Somehow it just all works. It is original, quirky, beautifully executed, and a joy to watch.

“Dancing on the Edge” continues through February 5.

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