by John Munger | 8/2/09 • Well whaddaya know? The Colonial is that rather upscale-ish renovated building across from the Monte Carlo restaurant and it houses Interact, a splendid arts organization.
Ready At Will (RAW) Dance Collective is doing a site-specific piece in, beneath, up, down, around and outside this complex structure. All six performers are serious dancers and the work is choreographed in the sense that images, concepts, structures, systems, group patterns and (to a considerable extent) movement content are rigorously predetermined and have been thoughtfully rehearsed.
That said, the group identifies itself as improvisational and site-specific.
|going through the movements is the blog of john munger, one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet.|
Well, yes, the performance I saw was improvisational on several levels. And yes, it explores the building to make inventive use of numerous textures, architectural features and structural idiosyncrasies of the edifice. But the group handled both challenges, often very well, with a some less effective episodes scattered within. And I recommend this show.
I attended their opening performance on Friday, July 30th along with about 25 other folks.
I was a bit concerned at first. This is a youthful and new troupe. Improvisation is always risky, and site-specific work has its own pitfalls. We got off to a late start. The initial image was minimalist, just a face staring wide-eyed through a glass portal in a door back at the audience, and this lasted a while. Then we moved down a basement corridor past several figures in black jumpsuits clinging to locked doorknobs and leaning precariously. In an alcove around a corner one figure was banging her butt repeatedly against a locked door. Eventually those clinging to doorknobs began hammering on the doors, which were locked. Well, in too many ways I remembered improvisation class when I was 20-ish.
Once into the body of the work, however, numerous inventive, visually interesting, unexpected and sometimes disturbing images began to emerge.
Imagine going en masse down a steep and narrow stairwell with motionless performers clinging perilously in distorted and upside-down shapes on the iron railings. Imagine sitting in a darkened and massive corridor with high ceilings and no décor looking to a brightly lit room or corner or alcove at the far end. One by one the dancers vanish into the light, running through and past the watchers. One lingers to develop a serious of shapes and motion, silhouetted against the light.
The ending is striking, and I won’t give it away. But just imagine water running uphill.
For me this piece was about the texture and structure of the building rather than about its history. In one of my favorite moments the six performs plastered themselves like firing-squad victims against a rough and nubbly beige-brick wall. Ever so slowly they began to slide down. One could almost feel for one’s-self the scrape and scratch of the wall behind them. The collars of their pullover tops caught on hooks embedded in the walls, like what some nasty guys once did to a nerdy friend of mine in school. They suspended him by his jacket collar on a hook in the wall three feet off the ground. Same thing. Only here they continued to slide downward and slowly came out from under their tops, revealing a different costume layer beneath.
Wear comfortable shoes. The floors are pure concrete or very sturdy and unyielding hard wood. Plan on encountering dancers among yourselves but don’t worry. You can participate if you want but they don’t jostle you and they don’t “ask for volunteers.”
For me this wasn’t so much a dance experience or kinesthetic experience, though the dancers are skilled and did a lot. It was a spatial experience, and I appreciated that. I’m getting a little tired of ballet double tours and contemporary contact partnering. I started skeptical (but discreetly supportive because several are acquaintances) but came away refreshed. I recommend this show.
They still have performances Sunday Aug 2 at 2:30, Friday Aug 7 At 7:00 and Saturday Aug 8 at 8:30.
NOTE: This blog does not reflect the opinions or policies of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Dance/USA, nor anyone other than the author. These are purely and utterly my own observations and views.
John Munger (email@example.com) has been performing, teaching, choreographing, researching and writing about dance for about 40 years. He teaches at Zenon, day-jobs for Dance/USA, and still hasn’t gotten much of it right.
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