Written by Mariko Nagashima
In Seattle’s festival-filled contemporary dance scene it is rare to see an evening length performance that fully embodies one single concept. The Asterisk Project’s show Under This Roof did just that in their performance at Velocity Dance Center on April 15 and 16, 2011. Directed and conceived by Nicole Sasala Lobuzzetta, the show revolved around the idea of home, using vignettes of each room in a household to portray an array of family dynamics. Local folk trio Hannalee provided live accompaniment for the show, creating a delightfully homey feel with their blend of acoustic harmonies. Everything from the pitch-perfect music to the subtle lighting and inventive use of props meshed to create a cohesive and fully realized work.
The first scene, which depicted the front porch of a house, was a solo by Lobuzzetta herself in which she began lazily draped in a rocking chair, wistfully playing a harmonica. The soft golden lighting was reminiscent of the quiet space at dusk after an idle summer day and helped ease the audience into the program. In an impressive display of multitasking Lobuzzetta continued playing the harmonica even as her dancing became more involved; every exhale translated into a musical note as she jumped and rolled to the floor. A few frenetic phrases seemed slightly out of place here, but the whimsical harmonica, and humor that ensued when she dropped it and proceeded to pick it up using only her mouth, sustained the piece’s blithe feeling.
In Family Room, the audience was treated to a playful look at sibling rivalry. Dancers Aliza Rudavsky and Morgan Nutt copycatted, wrestled, and competed for the spotlight in this delightful romp. As the taunting older sibling, Rudavsky was perfectly aloof and delighted in frustrating Nutt, the impetuous younger sister. Hannalee’s music echoed their struggles, chiming in with “nah nah nah nah nah’s” while Rudavsky mocked Nutt. The scene continued with the addition of Lobuzzetta and Bridget Gunning who portrayed the parents of the warring children. Textured with interesting floor work and inventive lifts that seemed to spring from nowhere, the choreography unveiled the shifting family dynamics of the quartet. Complete with rebellious kids and exasperated parents, it seemed an accurate portrayal of a loving, if not rambunctious, family.
The section titled Bedroommellowed the mood again with a quietly sensuous solo by Gunning. A bulbous glass lamp on a thick chain was slowly dragged across the stage while Gunning slinked along in front, every line of her body etched by the amber glow behind her. Staying close to the ground at all times, Gunning gradually made her way from one side of the stage to the other, arching her spine, nimbly walking on all fours, and suggestively tiptoeing her fingers along her body. In the second half of this section, Rudavsky and Lobuzzetta gave a genuine portrayal of a couple’s struggles. Rudazsky began by delineating and organizing the space around her with gestural hand movements that became increasingly agitated until Lobuzzetta entered and gently steadied her hands. Their movements conveyed the past tenderness in their relationship, but also the affection they can’t seem to regain. Summed up perfectly by Hannalee’s lyrics “They used to say love never dies, that was before they don’t feel it anymore,” this melancholy duet was another moment where the music and dance worked seamlessly together.
The mood lightened again with Dining Room in which the four dancers assumed various poses around a table and a group of barstools. Forming tableaus using every imaginable configuration of their bodies and the furniture, the group mocked the stuffy formality of an actual dining room. In a rare moment where they all sat pertly on their seats as if posed for a family portrait, they seemed barely able to contain themselves before bursting back into their playful antics of crouching under the table and lying atop the stools.
Kitchen, the final piece of the evening, began with Nutt, now weary and contemplative, perched on a stool and holding a coffee cup. While she shifted her poses, threading her feet through the legs of the stool and dexterously balancing atop it, she appeared consumed by heavy thoughts that brought a sense of gravity to her steps. As she leaned away from the stool in ever more precarious poses Gunning arrived to support her. The choreography was particularly well-crafted here and featured several creative lifts, including one in which Nutt straddled Gunning’s shoulder, one toe pointed on the stool as Gunning promenaded her around. More ambiguous than the rest of the evening’s works, their duet simply embodied the type of enduring caring and support one receives from family.
As a whole Under This Roof was a refreshing look at the daily struggles and triumphs of home life and family relationships. It was refreshing to see a cohesive body of work that narrowly focused on one idea, but never felt redundant
The Kinematic Dance Project also made an appearance at the show, opening the evening with the work Not all right is not all wrong. Choreographed by Aliza Rudavsky, it was a beguiling mix of isolations and quirky movements. Ranging from edgy and minimalistic to athletic and dynamic it seemed to explore the concepts of right and wrong through trial and error, often repeating movements and hoping for different results. Never predictable, it was a strong showing by this newly formed group.