Constant Flux in Into Ice

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Hands quiver behind white crumpled walls, backlit by stark blue-ish light. Their shadows enlarge as if on the walls of a cave. A pair of feet or a hand sometimes peeks from behind, flexed or reaching with seeming desperation. One body taps at the hanging paper structure with frantic persistence, as if trying to chip away at the enclosure. Later, the crouched silhouette rocks back and forth in distress.

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Photo by Danny Boulet of Witty Pixel Photography

Into Ice, Alana O. Rogers’s first evening-length work, is inspired by her venture to Glacier Bay, Alaska. The floor and surrounding curtains of this improvised opening installation create a white box within which Rogers stages her extensive research of Alaska and the Arctic—numerous readings and sources are cited throughout the program. The installation segues into a many-bodied ensemble, shifting through a careful floor sequence. Moving points of contact on the floor, the group moves like a flock, never precious about staying completely in unison.

Nico Tower plays live music, her frequent work with dancers clearly evident. Her extreme connection to movement surfaces in the way she structures her scores and in her haunting vocals, which flood the room with palpable intent. Falsetto tones loop together, backed by winding electronic melodies. Her sound plays an important role in setting the scene, a tone similar to the reverence one feels when looking at a vast landscape.

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Photo by Danny Boulet of Witty Pixel Photography

From there, the work displays a constant flux of bodies in space, with grand extensions and energized jumps taking the eye from one side of the stage to the other. Within the densely overlapping material, a brief trio stands out. Their elbows vigorously scissor up and down, contrasting with the full-bodied balletic movements of the other dancers onstage. This simple, repetitive action provides a refreshing and satisfying moment amid the perpetually shifting structures. The overall busyness, however, interferes with the work’s attempt to carry the viewer into unknown places.

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Photo by Danny Boulet of Witty Pixel Photography

Brisk entrances and exits move the work along into act two: “Kingdom.” Dancers prancing, with hands crossed overhead, seem to represent deer or moose. Another pack dances in a lower plane, and one stops to scratch behind the ear. Wolves, perhaps? A series of duets suggest duels, but also include confusing embraces and very human hugs. While clearly inspired by Arctic animals in their habitat, contemporary phrase work overpowers the primal energy it needs to be truly convincing. At the same time, the animal-like gestures turn our attention to species other than ourselves. We enter a habitat with different rules and social interactions, leaving us curious about whatever fateful or peaceful outcomes may have occurred.

Toward the end of act three, “Home,” the space expands as dancer Kim Holloway performs an intensely viscous solo. The impetus seems to come from deep in her center as she fluidly moves in multiple directions. For what seems like the first time in the evening, she locks eyes with the audience, drawing the viewer in instead of watching from afar. It is reminiscent of a wild animal encounter—suggesting the animal’s feeling of intrusion and possibly fear. Holloway’s assumed nature—animalistic yet still human—recalls a quote from one of Rogers’s readings from the program: “We are always looking at ourselves, trying to solve the puzzle of how to be human” (Gretel Ehrlich, This Cold Heaven). The quote, in relation to the work, poses the question of how our human existence fits in the larger context of the natural world.

 

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Dancer Kim Holloway in Photo by Danny Boulet of Witty Pixel Photography
Reflecting upon the themes of the work, a larger space would have suited it well. For the number of dancers and expansiveness of the movement, Into Ice was aptly performed within the constraints of the venue. However, while the extensive research conducted for the piece was noble, the work’s overall effect might have benefited from a greater distillation of ideas. More use of stillness or silence would better reflect the environment Rogers was trying to portray. However, Rogers should be applauded for so fully translating expedition into movement exploration. An inquisitive look into remote Arctic life, Into Ice left no corner untouched.

 

Into Ice runs Nov. 11–12 & 18–19, 2016 at 8:00 pm with the pre-show installation beginning at 7:30 pm. Velocity FOUNDERS Theater. Tickets at Brown Paper Tickets and more info at alanaorogers.org.