Daniel Wilkins’ company, DASS Dance, premiered a restaged version of Lights, Camera… Action! on Saturday, October 18, at the MLK Fame Community Center on Capital Hill. Wilkins’ inspiration for the show was sparked by the desire to work with El Wire, a new type of wearable wiring, to add special effects to his work through the costuming. A small but enthusiastic audience was present for this short, explosive 45 minute piece that showcased the tech savvy side of Wilkins’ imagination. Wilkins acknowledged an abstract quality of his choreography in this work, explaining that the movement was a backdrop for his interest in “dabbling with technology.” While the piece allowed Wilkins’ dancers to unleash the power of their technical skill, the costuming failed to fully integrate the new technology.
DASS’s Lights, Camera… Action! was held in the musty basketball arena located in the right wing of the MLK Fame Community Center. Wilkins and his company manipulated the space by adding Marley panels and handmade backdrops hung from the ceiling and draped against the worn-out basketball hoop. Light radiated from two large stage lights set against the wall. An abstract projection, reminiscent of a 1990s era screensaver, played an intermittent rotation of night time stars, a countdown clock, and geometric patterns against the blank white back drop.
Wilkins’ choreography boasts a unique blend of styles billed as pushing “the athletic and architectural limits of dance.” The technical skill of Wilkins’ dancers more than lived up to this promise. The standout dancer of the night was a new member, William Ernest D. Burden, who moved with strength, grace, athleticism, and effortlessness. He amplified his movements beyond recognizable human action as he transitioned seamlessly through the melting pot of styles that Wilkins wove together. The “Action!” of the piece relied heavily on Wilkins’ signature acrobatic lifts and muscular movements, but the six dancers of DASS moved in perfect synchronicity. It was truly fascinating to watch, and the crowd was extremely enthusiastic throughout the performance.
Despite the immense technical skill of his company, the technology Wilkins employed did not live up to its potential. The El Wire, which Wilkins intended to quite literally highlight the athleticism of his choreography, was difficult to see against the dancers garments and consequently did not create the desired glowing effect. The way the wire was taped to the dancers with neon colored duct tape seemed to hinder rather than highlight the movement. Additionally, the dancers lacked emotional projection throughout the work. The choreography created a sense of futuristic dehumanization through mechanical movements, daring partnering, and a lack of emotional response between the dancers and their art. The dancers, despite their high level of skill, wanted for emotion and facial expression, and seemed to simply be moving for movement’s sake. Fortunately, since the piece was so abstract, this aspect did not affect the performance as much as if there had been a direct theme or intention choreographed into the work.
DASS is made up of six wildly talented and athletic dancers, but Lights, Camera…Action! fell short of utilizing technology in a new and meaningful way. The company performs frequently throughout the year. Find their calendar and more information here. With such highly skilled dancers, DASS Dance is a company to keep an eye on.