A riddle: What do you get when you combine a multitude of visual and performance arts with B-movie kitsch in an unconventional space, all while posing brainy existential questions? Answer: If you are Christin Call and Natascha Greenwalt of Coriolis Dance, you get Unfixed Arias, a sold-out, two-night preview performance at The Belltown Collective. More multi-faceted installation than traditional dance presentation, Unfixed Arias defied classification–although by the end of the evening, the performance seemed to encompass a universal Everything.
The somewhat convoluted nature of the performance required an introductory greeting with instructions. Audience members were instructed by poetic program notes to “follow the orb” as half of the works were staged on the lower level, with floor seating to “star gaze on blanket[s],” and half were on the upper level, “seat[ed] for the next adventure.” Pre-show directions to “wander and explore” hinted at the audience’s mobility as a facet of the titular Unfixed. Exhibits with titles such as Stardazed and Threaded Cosmos presented a first glimpse of thematic content: Greenwalt as a photographed Ophelia in Chrissie White’s Transplanted, Mariko Nagashima uttering Disney-fied nonsensical Martian-speak under a threaded web on a papered “crash site,” or Call’s numerous media-rich artworks exploring depths of identity and reality. The term “unfixed” gained new connotations both of coming unhinged and of latent artistic genius.
A descent down the stairs (down the rabbit hole?) yielded more crash sites: Andrea Larreta in Call’s Future Past Bedtime reading aloud from science fiction-inclined books amid paper stars and pillows, and Maddie DeVries and Kat Murphy in Call’s Limitations 3 and 4 as the animate pointe shoe-clad wallpaper behind geometric projections and hanging paper detritus. These “sites,” William Blake-esque in their contradictory qualities of innocence and insanity, became an artistic mental ward merely lacking in straitjackets. An undercurrent of curious anticipation accompanied these pre-show stagings, especially as once seated, the audience could glimpse an ethereal Call behind a curtain of braided rope, a transfixed mannequin. The scope of this prelude set the stage for the evening: layers of meticulously planned detail, meaning, and exquisite dancing.
From the beginning to the final scene, each piece seamlessly blended into the next, creating a successively tightening narrative. The first two works revealed Call as a queenly priestess in Aestraea/Liveablekillsafe, gliding smoothly down the aisle through the audience (naturally arched feet rippling like water), then showed Greenwalt and Marissa Quimby in simultaneous juxtaposition of the delicate, strong, fluid, and monstrously hulking in Greenwalt’s gracefully athletic Orbiting. A humorous trio of leggy Martians-cum-Greek chorus (Larreta, Nagashima, and Quimby) spouted pop culture witticisms while powerfully wielding long legs in vibrating synchronicity in Call’s Boldly going here, Ep. 1. Coriolis displayed the strength of its dancers in larger group pieces. This was especially evident in Call’s Supermassive gravitational collapse as choreography and dancers in mutual support displayed versatile range and body awareness. Call’s Vortex immanence/transcendence stretched thin in the middle but ended stronger than it began, returning to the pull of the narrative thread with Call’s voice delivering a fragmented, poetic soliloquy.
The second act mirrored the first spatially, beginning downstairs and finishing upstairs. The Martian trio reappeared in Boldly going there, Ep. 2, dancing in a modern-day vaudevillian blend of well-placed humor and barbed social commentary. Call and Greenwalt appeared together in Insofaras the landscopic field report as two scientists marooned in space coping with interminable days and toxic moon rocks–a Buck Rogers episode en pointe, complete with two-dimensional rocket ship. The audience filed upstairs one final time for Estranged Incandescence. A Funeral, the most purely danced segment of the evening, where the multitude of layers began to peel back, baring a vulnerable and wistful tension. Gestural moments echoed the visual art installations, physically sculpting two dimensions into three.
The victory for Coriolis lay in their ability to combine and layer so many types of art. They maintained the integrity of each art form while still highlighting the fact that Coriolis is foremost a dance company—assisted in no small part by the talented dancers, each a master technician and skilled performer. Live performances by Jackie An (violin) and Serena Eduljee (voice) matched the high quality of the dancers. The group tossed off the difficult choreography effortlessly, and the dancers flowed seamlessly between balletic, contemporary, and performance art genres. Only occasional choreographic lapses of inserted ballet vocabulary marred this stylistic fusion, with gratuitous fouetté turns or incongruous jumping rond de jambes (leg circles) without preamble.
Over all the works, the use of shoes coincided with thematic material: pointe shoes and heels connoted a hyperbolic alienness that contrasted the grounded freedom of soft slippers. In many ways, Coriolis addressed the ongoing debate about the place of pointe work in today’s dance world, cleverly using pointe shoes as metaphor for both the ethereal and the alien. En pointe, Call was alternately otherworldly goddess and awkward newborn, a juxtaposition exaggerated by her petite frame, large eyes, and pixie blonde haircut.
While the flow of the entire evening left little time for contemplation between works, (a feat, considering the small size of the company), by intermission there came an overwhelming sense of painstaking architecture: a feeling that even the breath of the audience was planned for and choreographed. The contrast between the vast scope of Call and Greenwalt’s work and the brief duration of the two-performance run underscored the ephemeral and vulnerable quality of art in general. Although in need of further editing and distillation (especially in Vortex), Unfixed Arias begged for multiple viewings and repeated contemplation to scrutinize the nuances of this manifold universe.