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Nincompoopiana and Lola : Dreamy Creatures at Velocity

Nincompoopiana. Photo by Joshua L. Whalen

Written by Victoria Jacobs

Carla Barragán’s Nincompoopiana with Diana Garcia-Snyder’s Lola showed September 18 and 25 at VelocityDanceCenter. Nincompoopiana was all about the full-body puppet costumes. Oh, the costumes. They’re magnificent. They’re animated stuffed animals, imaginary friends made flesh; they’re a palette of orange and yellow and green and gray that would fit well in a beautiful children’s book. Some have faces on the front and back of their heads, some have their disproportionate bones stitched on the outside of their bodies; adding to the whimsy, are an enlarged shoulder, a pair of puffy legs, or strange grasping fingers.

After the show, Barragán laid out black ink drawings made by her sister, Paula Barragán’s, that inspired the costumes, and they are equally strange and precise. The costumes are the defining element of Nincompoopiana and it’s from them that all of its glory and all of its difficulty arise.

The work was glorious because the space was transformed by these characters’ curious, oddly-shaped presence. The dancers became other than themselves, their bodies reshaped and their heads enormous. The world of the dance was unbalanced, jungle-like, and alien—a mysterious new reality where anything could happen. The characters appeared first as in short glimpses of shy, exotic species in their natural habitat. As their relationships and characters became more clear—the orange one was unstable, the green one was sassy—they broke out into a jungle-beat dance party.

It was difficult to watch at times because the costumes seemed hard to move in; they were padded, layered, with every inch of the dancers’ skin, including their feet, covered and sometimes bulked up. Maybe because of that, the movement wasn’t especially inventive; much of the vocabulary was somewhat stunted modern dance steps (since the nuance of extensions were abbreviated by the costumes) or a play-acting mime. And having their movement impeded didn’t serve the promise inherent in the fantastic, otherworldly costumes. There were some strong choreographic moments. It was delightful when one gray-yellow creature tap-danced. A few of the dancers (hard to say who, under the costumes) used deep bending of the knees and undulating through the spine, which animated the puppet-costumes more fully. After the show, the dancers were red-faced and sweaty with exhaustion. Had the style of movement been as wildly, dreamily inventive as the costumes themselves or had the dance been inspired by the bizarre lumpy shoulders, the strange legs, and the giant heads, the piece may have been stronger overall.

Filling out the program was Diana Garcia-Snyder’s Lola, so-called after a floppy puppet with stuffed organs and bones sewn to its exterior (also made by Barragán). Garcia-Snyder, who complements admirable modern dance skill with Butoh training, was dressed in all white with a few organs and a pink tail sewn to her own costume. Lola lay slumped in a chair downstage as Garcia-Snyder, puppet-like and determined, blinked button eyes and undulated, stretched, and flopped through a range of emotions: boredom, disappointment, excitement, and more mysterious states. As the classical score shifted between movements, the lighting would return to a long focus on Lola (each time in a new position) and then back to Garcia-Snyder. The premise, inspired by the puppet, was wildly unusual, and Garcia-Snyder’s simpler costume meant that she still had her full range of movement than the dancers in Nincompoopiana. In contrast to the folded, messy puppet, her dancing was a gorgeous twitchy counterpoint, full of imagery and surprising changes. Lola ended as Garcia-Snyder finally broke the wall between herself and Lola, approaching her as if to touch her, but it ended too soon. She had just met her strange, inside-out, flaccid shadow; the weird, wonderful, otherworldly dance was only just beginning.

More information on bqdance can be found at Garcia-Snyder has information about her latest activity at