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Flight Deck 2012 Gives Wings to Funny Bones

Written by Irene E. Beausoleil
Dancers Christin Call and Natascha Greenwalt Murphy
Photo by Christin Call( video still)
Pushing the boundaries of space, time, and hilarity, Flight Deck 2012 opened its ninth installment of the annual summer residency program Saturday, August 25, 2012 at their studio in the heart of the University District. Flight Deck is an annual showcase for selected artists who are given the opportunity to use subsidized studio space at Open Flight Studio to explore their current inspirations. The material presented by the featured artists Jody Kuehner, Christin Call, and Natascha Greenwalt Murphy was a whole new kind of fresh-faced funny that kept audiences in their seats all the way to the end of the post-performance discussion.

The evening began with multi-media dance work created by collaborative partners Call and Greenwalt Murphy of Coriolis Dance Collective. For these two dancers, the line between contemporary ballet and modern dance is “…where we live,” says Greenwalt Murphy, explaining that the combination of styles is characteristic of their work. Dressed in matching shorts and over-sized laboratory goggles, the partners seemed as if they were attempting to escape from a giant net lit from above. The duet moved inside of it, through it, and back and forth between the edges with curious, hesitant motions and rapid directional changes. Soon after, violinist Jackie An incorporated sounds that could be described as characteristic of space-age machinery.

There was a communicative element to this piece that was subtly hysterical. At certain moments, it was clear the dancers were having a conversation. They would lift their goggles, peer at each other, and compulsively repeat specific gestures. It was soon after this silent conversation that the dancers began to use space aggressively, exiting the net with long lines and extensive traveling sequences. Playing with perspective like a kaleidoscope, they weaved in and out of each other’s negative space and acknowledged the unshaded mirrors. As they fought to find a way forward, they seemed to confront their own possibilities only to be short-circuited by compulsion and hesitation.

Artist Jody Kuehner
Photo by Keith Johnson
No less subtle was a stunning performance given by Kuehner, otherwise known as Cherdonna of The Cherdonna and Lou Show. Following a brief explanation of her process, Kuehner left the room and reappeared fully nude in drag makeup with an oversized blonde afro and wedge heels. Kuehner leisurely strolled through a simple walking pattern backed by two bright lamps and, unlike the previous piece, unshaded windows. The solo began with soft body undulations and crystallized moments of suspension that highlighted Kuehner’s natural facility. The solo was not hugely effortful, in fact, it had an almost apathetic air that Kuehner used to examine what it means to be an attractive female on display. After the initial soundscape ended, a curiously familiar pop tune filtered in through the speakers with the refrain, “These Girls Fall Like Dominoes.” Using facial expressions to convey the opposite of what her body was doing, Kuehner frowned in abject shock/disgust while she repeatedly turned away from the audience to shake her very bare buns in time to the music. It was a fantastic use of humor and allowed the following section of her solo to shine with a nonchalant attitude.

Greenwalt Murphy, Call, and Kuehner approached this residency with completely different expectations and intentions. Though the artists used classic elements, neither of the works had a particularly forced or deliberate approach and instead allowed the dance to develop organically. It’s interesting to note that these spontaneous inspirations often lead to unexpectedly comical and genuine stories. Although not necessarily the goal of the residency, curators Paige Barnes, Aiko Kinoshita, and Amelia Reeber seem to encourage a trend of creating work that indulges in chance and creative desire, which will hopefully continue. Hilariously talented things will surely follow.