Every artist begins a work with a series of ideas. While sometimes it is the desire that a work comes together quickly and conclusively, many artists start with fragmented pieces and enjoy the the process of finding how they fit together. Curated by four emerging choreographers, DUST is an exploration of these individual particles—like dust, it is fascinating to watch and impossible to fully capture.
Emma Hreljanovic’s trio Puzzle Trouble opens the show, each of the dancers wearing a simple zip-up hoodie, sweatpants, and sneakers. Metallic makeup accentuates their eyes and facial structure, giving an unexpected contrast to their athletic garb. Triangle formations and circular paths contain moments of jogging as well as stand-still gestures. Each dancer takes focus in one way or another, whether by movement or position on stage. However, their relationship to one another remains questionable. They come off not as people but as colorful units, fitting and unfitting with one another energetically, an almost magnetic attraction and repulsion. There is an air of urgency laced with panic. A creepy smile from Kaitlyn Dye disturbs the energy, but it is unclear why. The movement evolves into athletic partnering that is executed with ease and familiarity. Puzzle Trouble, while physically interesting, leaves the viewer with an invisible question mark of what has just occurred.
Hreljanovic herself performs an improvised solo next, in No Big Deal, with lighting improvised by Nico Tower. Instantaneously, a tender environment is crafted between the two mediums. A track of Alan Watts’ “The Mind” plays – a verbal musing on the idea of compulsive thinking and worry. His explanation of worry is impeccably illustrated through Hreljanovic’s cyclical and restless movement. Tower’s lighting changes rapidly but smoothly, each intention making sense with the events of the space. A refreshing change of technique, the light sometimes acts as a second dancer. Hreljanovic’s simple white button-up shirt and white linen pants give a blank slate in which to witness her ideas. She mesmerizes from beginning to end with satisfying clarity and beautiful movement choices.
Every light turns on at once for Yessir, as to stun the audience in a stark, “ok, GO” tone. Choreographer Kimberly Holloway jovially bounces onto stage, wide eyed and doll-like. Peppy, parade-like music characterizes her flicky, presentational gestures and moments of suspended imbalance. Too soon after it begins, this light mood winds down to a serious and dark place. Rebecca Barney, in orange, and a trio, in grey, encapsulate Holloway’s negative space, eerily taking control. Victoria McConnell hovers upstage, a helpless look on her face as if she wants to rescue Holloway from the predatory army. Yessir depicts a familiar story of good versus evil, or group versus individual. Although each dancer greatly embodies their role, Holloway escaping the group’s grasp at the end is somewhat predictable.
A raspy, a cappella voice and a long black dress open the second half with Interposition, by Daniel Costa. Entering through the audience, Alicia Pugh’s singing opens the space like an honest question. As she begins to move in cadence with her music, it becomes clear that no answer is needed. Deeply personal and raw, her husky sound almost mimics crying, but the strong kind of crying that breeds authentic, anguished expression. She sings about heartbreak and regret, her posture downcast and her foot slowly stomping to keep measure. With a wide mouth and closed eyes, she struggles to reach high notes, not in a way that makes us doubt her talent, but in a way that makes us appreciate her unique and soulful poetry.
Costa comes behind her, like a shadow or a moment from her past. They begin a virtuosic duet, both bodies complimenting each other like fraternal twins. Although Costa utilizes unison for most of the piece, the tool is welcome and never becomes single-noted. Their long limbs trace the space with movement that seems to leave behind an energetic trail. While so in sync, there is still a dissonance that lies between them, perhaps suggesting a subtle toxicity present in the relationship Pugh sings of. Interposition approaches the task of healing with sophistication, somehow managing to erase all cliches on the subject.
Ashleigh Miller’s Fragments and Broken Pieces from Brain Is A Radio concludes the night. A larger cast works with live music from Floraform (musicians Travis Corwin, Ben Grieshaber, and Miller). There is a notion of competition versus camaraderie in this piece. The dancers, in all black, move through each other with either care or hostility. One dancer deliberately shoves another, followed by an intense glare. Together, the group constructs a dark landscape, speckled with surprising moments such as a brief headstand or an out-of-place giggle. An extended unison period of running in place builds the energy, then is satisfyingly broken. The piece ends with Miller alone on stage, a silhouette against a projection of some sort of 3D digital glacier. The sky is red, and our view is that of a flying drone, exploring the icy structure from above. A serene feeling softens any tension left in the room as the final particles settle into completion.
DUST was performed at Velocity Dance Center February 17-18, 2017.
Brain Is A Radio is set to premier as a full installation in April 2017 at Velocity Dance Center.