I found myself a fully engaged part of SECRET’s performance space. Not in a hard brick and mortar sort of way, but as a fluid, transient suggestion that softly defined the parameters in which the performers were confined.
February brought an invitation to attend Atlanta’s CORE Performance Company presentation of SECRET at Atlanta Georgia’s Gothic-Tudor style historic Callanwolde mansion. Now one of the city’s premier fine arts centers in the Druid Hills neighborhood. The experience was delightful from the intertwining choreography by Artistic Director Sue Schroeder and guest artist Becky Valls, to the live accompaniment, stunning surroundings and the unique ambiance in which we enjoyed and participated in the show.
To fully appreciate SECRET, traditional ideas of what an audience experience should be like had to be suspended. No passive hiding in the dark permitted, we had to live and breathe with the dancers, following and shifting, changing from section to movement to room to be privy to their abstract secrets. The audience embarked on a learning curve as we moved from room to room with each section following its own non-traditional set of rules. The journey required adjustments and accommodation along the way by the shy and, at times, vulnerable audience.
Dancers are a special breed of artist, and being close as they perform feels intimate. The seven dancers dressed in loud multi-print costumes with their shoes tucked under their arms, appeared as diverse in shape and movement as a cross section of the spectators following their path through the cavernous archways of ancient Callanwolde. They were, however, unified in the mood they created, performing as a quiet introspective ensemble and politely beckoned us into their world. Each dancer drew us into their world for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes it was the choreography or their proximity. Other times it was the structure of the rooms and where the observer was located in them that brought particular phrases or actions forefront.
Steffanie Boettle gave an intense performance utilizing gothic features of the house, at times clinging onto the pillars and an ornate door frame in a side room. Her space was defined in the corner by stools the bashful audience may, or may not, have been sitting in and the ever present theme of unworn shoes.
A favorite section of SECRET for me took place in a specious but tangent ballroom experienced by the audience from outside through the heavy door frames. The story was perforated by the structure of the mansion and we had to shift and move in our seats to catch juicy glimpses of action. This gave each audience member a unique and personal experience of the choreography. A magnificent display of full phrasing by dancer Derrick Causey drew my eye as he entered my particular line of vision and just caught fragments and punctuation from the ensemble in my peripheral. Like peeping Toms, each of us observing a completely different piece of the puzzle, but none able to have a completed picture.
I am a fan of site specific work that brings me into a deeper richer experiential realm and ART that teaches me how to experience it. This is exactly what CORE performance has done at Callanwolde. It was satisfaction on multiple levels! The future promises much from this Company and its performers.
CORE’s next stop is in Huston, their second home, on April 18th at the Museum of Fine Arts. But they will be back in Atlanta with us again on Friday, April 26 for the kick-off of EnCORE: A social gathering for the arts. They are also available at their studio in Decatur for lunch break yoga sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon. Then you can catch them performing again in Westside Atlanta at The Goat Farm Arts Center, May 9-11 for a collaboration in new work created by Amanda K. Miller-Fasshauer.
For more details go to http://www.coredance.org/
The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee
“First Breath”, a new exhibition of photography by Travis Magee
The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Film Society of Lincoln Center
There are these moments among skilled choreography and seasoned performances where you lose yourself. If you happen to be experiencing this, you will most probably hear a gasp or a groan. There is no language adequate to tell the tale later because they affect you in a primal, visceral way. These moments transcend language and are too intimate to describe. To those of you who don’t frequent the many exquisite dance events happening around the world today… this is the reason to see dance live! The bitter sweet dichotomy can perpetuate a frustration, that the experiences can’t REALLY be translated to anyone who wasn’t at the dance performances, sharing the adventure. These feelings lead to the question, “How do we bottle this?”
Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”
The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence
The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.
The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.
“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”
T. Lang: A Woman Searching
The raw space at the Goat Farm is set up with four see through scrims hanging from the ceiling, situated in a square, to separate the performers from the audience. Seats are arranged in the round, meaning all the way “a round” where the action was about to take place. The first question of the evening is to figure out which side of the room we want to experience this evening from. Obviously, there is no right or wrong… just questions.
On June 7th, I found myself asking a lot of questions at the World premiere of T. Lang Dance Company’s performance of Post Up. The cast of nine extraordinary women were uniformly exposed in white bras and cherry red leggings. The uniformity brought to mind a complex woman or many women in a similar situation, perhaps battered or in a prison. An inquiry later enhanced by zig-zagged projections on the fabric we were looking through. The tastefully sparse costumes highlighted the performers’ beauty and I was reminded of how majestic women are, in all iterations, with different curves, hair lengths, textures and hues of skin.
The tone in this screened in cage was desperate, sad and played with themes of struggle and vulnerability but through it all a feminine strength became apparent. Not only through the athleticism of these prodigious artistic athletes but in an instinctual comradery that naturally exists between woman, especially at times of crisis.
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