Saturday, May 12, at The Beam Theater, marked the fourth annual Collaborations Atlanta performance, produced by Jamie Horban. Collaborations offers the opportunity for collaboration between creators of different art forms. Some of the collaborations included music performance and art; dance, poetry, and theater; dance and film; and the more common dance and music, and film and music.
It was refreshing and inspiring to attend a performance that emphasized creative collaboration over technical expertise and perfection. That’s not to say there was no technical expertise. But these pieces seemed to be about the process as much as the final product. For artists and those of us who like to watch art being made, this concert was a peek at the making of art in Atlanta. The Beam is an intimate theatre where the performers and the audience can reach across and physically touch each other. For this performance, the audience was seen as another collaborator in the artistic process.
There were too many works on the program to discuss each one separately—but it is a great thing that Atlanta has so many artists willing to work in teams, rather than only alone. Collaboration feeds the artistic process as nothing else does. I do want to mention some highlights, although the whole evening kept the audience engaged.
The most professional performance, and one that intrigued me, was Daniel and Kate Guyton’s piece with Christopher Hall. It combined poetry, theater, and Israeli Gaga dance, an improvisational technique using a movement vocabulary developed by Ohad Naharin of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company. Simply costumed and expertly presented by both the actors and the dancer, the use of the Gaga movement lent a surreal aura to what would otherwise have felt like straight theater.
The belly dancing by Jahara Phoenix Dance Company overshadowed the art portion of the collaboration, but the intricate choreographic patterns, the highly-developed performing qualities of the dancers, and the breathtaking use of fabric fans, made this piece a clear audience favorite. I have to vote with the audience on this one.
“Throw the Pot” was one of the more interesting collaborations. It offered visuals of beautiful hand-thrown pots, paired with a spoken word script using definitions appropriate to pottery and the throwing of pots. Because of technical difficulties, the film and video portions of the performance were on a small screen on stage right, rather than being projected onto the backdrop. In the case of this collaboration, the alternate plan worked really well.
Sometimes a special performer stands out. In Collaborations, it was Angelica, in Brent Smith and Project 6 Movement’s “Ready or Not.” The choreography was structured as a delightful ensemble-and-canon work, and the dancers were well-rehearsed and competent. However, Angelica’s willingness to take risks with the movement had the audience holding our collective breath—not with fear that she would fail, but with excitement, as she repeatedly flirted with danger on the outer limits of balance, then used every ounce of control to transition to the next movement. Few dancers ever find that ability, and she is definitely one to watch.
At times I was disappointed that some of the collaborations seemed more like coincidences—I would have liked to see more connection between the art forms being presented. One expects to see dance paired with music, but more interaction between the musical performers and the dancers, rather than merely having them on the same stage at the same time, could have made the presentations even more exciting. “Sea of Individuality” was not one of those coincidences. It was beautifully crafted with layers of meaning, and exquisitely performed, especially by the mime/dancer. Short and sweet, it was a gem of a work and perhaps the clearest example of the collaborative process.
The most disappointing thing about Collaborations is that there was only one performance. The theater was crowded, but it’s a shame that more Atlantans won’t have the chance to see what our arts community can do when its various members come together to create works that step outside of the usual silos. Plan to attend next year, Atlanta!