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MINNESOTA FRINGE FESTIVAL: NUCLEUS ... AND OTHER CELL BODIES
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Kelly Radermacher hails now from Milwaukee but she spent seven or eight years in the Twin Cities before going east a couple of years ago. She danced here with a number of people, but especially Denise Armsted and April Sellers.
I found this new piece to be endlessly fascinating. The premise is to draw movement inspiration from the activities of cellular micro-organisms and components. Have you ever wanted to guess what mitochondria or Golgi complexes might do in response to techno-pop music? Six dancers, including Kelly, deliver answers to questions like this with a series of group works, duets, trios and several solos.
Kelly has several skills as a choreographer. First, she is meticulous. Choice of gesture, patterns in space, structure of the overall piece, transitions, in short, everything, are carefully considered and rehearsed. Second, she has the patience and courage to present a movement phrase or element and then stay with it, exploring it, varying it, expanding it, and mining it. This is different from the sort of choreography that does a neat trick, and then moves on immediately to the next cool move, and then to the next thing after that.
Those two are notable strengths, among others.
The piece begins with Kelly entering with a kind of stomping walk that describes a circle and spirals in to a center. Then stops cold. She does it, or variations thereon, again. So simple and so blatant. Suddenly she leans back on a diagonal, extends her arms and launches a long series of very complex hand and arm gestures, none of which are accidental. The gestures are clever, cute, uniquely inventive, very fast, and fascinating. The contrast with the entering phrase is considerable. Both the entering circle and the complex gestures become recurring themes in the piece. On a very metaphoric level, we have had a circular definition of a cell boundary and a statement of the complex detail at work within it.
Other dancers begin to appear. They bear cushions, or something like that, that are 18 inches high, square or round. They move these around in the space, mostly by rolling against them so they slide on the floor. Eventually they set up a square and exchange places along the square in a simple but inexorable walking pattern. It reminded me of 1930’s dance explorations by the Bauhaus in Germany, where dancers in robot-like costumes explored diagonals, right angles, and exchanges with almost mathematical precision.
By this point a phrase was beginning to occur over and over in my mind. “A day in the lives of micro-organisms.”
The material developed for fifty minutes and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. One of my favorite sections, which occurred twice, involved most or all of the dancers simply walking in curving patterns around the space, avoiding each other sometimes by narrow margins, and simply absorbed in their own pathways. I thought of Brownian motion – the random but interactive movements of gas molecules in an enclosed volume.
Another of Kelly’s strengths is that her transitions from one section to another are organic and mostly unnoticeable. It’s not like we do a section, then we have a transition, then we do a different section. It’s like the transitions are part of the whole, and not discernible as necessary filler or adjustment.
One heads-up for audiences: the printed programme lists three different works, the third having several sections. One tends to expect that this means there will be a piece, then a blackout, a bit of a pause, and then a new piece. Not so. The whole show goes from beginning to end without pause.
Finally, the movement vocabulary is deceptively simple. Mostly the dancers walk, roll, crawl, or do complex arm-and-hand gestures. This is not a show for people who only want and only appreciate flashy leaps, multiple pirouettes and stuff like you get in a touring production of “Mamma Mia” or a big ticket blockbuster at The Ordway by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago or The Bolshoi Ballet. But let me say that what this ensemble is doing with simple materials is a great deal more difficult than it looks.
What I appreciate most about this show is its courage and its uniqueness. This doesn’t look like most mainstream or trendy dance ensembles, small, medium or large, in this region. This is truly inventive. This kind of exploration is why The Fringe matters.
“Nucleus … etc” is at the Southern Theater. Go to <a href= www.fringefestival.org/2012/show/?id=2246>Nucleus … And Other Cell Bodies</a>
The Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Avenue South