Inside the Pocket Theater, blue masking tape lined an 8’ by 8’ space; the audience sat within inches of the tape, leaving the dancers with what would ordinarily be little room to move. The theme of the evening was dance in small spaces, and choreographers from Ktisk Contemporary Dance fearlessly confronted this spatial challenge with seven distinctive pieces. A couple of the solos and duets, while only between four and ten minutes long, were poignant and zany enough to make a lasting impression.
More so than any of the other choreographers, Rachael Forstrom embodied the evening’s spatial theme in her duet, Within. The dancers, Forstrom and Philippa Myler, appeared unfazed by the reduced space. Never looking at each directly, the women easily maneuvered the 8’ by 8’ area. They seemed to be sensing the invisible boundaries of the space as they gracefully weaved between one another’s limbs without lifting their bodies fully off the ground. The dancers demonstrated a mastery of space and highlighted how limitations can often produce the most aesthetically interesting results.
In Live in my Body, Noelle Chun contended with the definition of dance. Wearing a gray t-shirt with the phrase “This is my costume” printed boldly on the front, Chun sped through a whirlwind of emotions in minutes. She began the piece using her breath to initiate the movement. Her breath escalated into grunts, laughter, and yells; in turn, she frantically whipped her arms through the space. Her unpredictable movements epitomized a messier aesthetic of choreography. With the same likeness as postmodern dancers of the Judson Church era, Chun questioned where the boundaries of modern dance lie.
Choreographer Elrey Belmonti brought a lighthearted interlude to the program with his piece, The Struggle is Real. The soloist, Amy Weaver, placed a phone on a downstage corner of the square. Circling the tight space, she occasionally looked over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the phone. As the operatic chants of Enya became louder and louder, Weaver’s pace quickened and her glances became erratic. Weaver expertly portrayed the difficulty of waiting for that elusive text or call as she leapt through the tight space, always taking a moment between the frenzy to agonize over the phone. Finally, the phone rang and Weaver lurched to the floor. She answered in a comical, almost cathartic, release of tension, exclaiming, “The pizza’s here!”
In Greece becomes Nauru, the lengthiest and most contemplative piece of the evening, Myler used sound, lighting, and space to describe the feeling of confinement felt by refugees around the world. The program notes outlined the crisis in Greece and the Pacific island of Nauru, while the sounds of an NPR interview with an Iraqi asylum seeker and Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” alluded to the suffering of refugees confined in Germany. Myler encapsulated this sense of sorrow. She began on the floor with her legs and arms stretched upward. In the melancholic, blue stage lights, she seemed to be wading through the space. As in Forstrom’s Within, Myler deftly twisted on herself and pushed against the floor with her hands. Her athleticism urged her body past the space, yet she was limited inside the metaphorical confines.
The three other solos on the program ranged in theme from Batman to aliens, making for a lineup that left audience members laughing one moment and furrowing their brow the next. While the performance felt scattered at times—Ktisk led the audience from one idea to another within a matter of minutes—the evening was held together by the choreographers’ originality. At 8 x 8, Ktisk Contemporary Dance offered a platform for choreographers to experiment with space, ideas, and movement.
You can still catch 8 x 8 at the Pocket Theater this Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 7pm. Tickets are available, $10 in advance and $14 at the door. See ThePocket.org for tickets and information.