Friday, November 11, 2011

RAW at The Garage

Photo by Hollis Nolan
Featuring - "Faith" by Ronja Ver & "Lumen/Lux" by Katharine Hawthorne
The Garage, San Francisco
November 9th, 2011

On Wednesday night, The Garage welcomed another edition of its notable RAW program (resident artist workshop), with two new dance works: "Faith" by Ronja Ver and "Lumen/Lux" by Katharine Hawthorne.  Both pieces embody the spirit of this special place: thinking outside the box, challenging the norms and making creative performance art.

Ronja Ver has envisioned a three-part piece with "Faith" that expresses a reverse treatment of pain.  The first section shows the recovery; the moving forward; the new start, while the second and third scenes deal with past experiences of grief and despair.  Performed as solo, Ver exposes herself and these issues with a genuine authenticity.

The opening moments found Ver walking in a slow diagonal from upstage right to downstage left.  Each step forward was perfectly articulated with an exaggerated heel-ball-toe.  Here was a definitive and direct journey towards something new as opposed to being away from something old.  Once she reached her destination, the choreography shifted and became almost puppet-like, yet again, the common denominator of specificity and control was very present.  The skeleton moved one part at a time, which brought forth the message: one small thing can and does create change; a deliberate and direct action can affect positively.  The opening segment of "Faith" drives home the power of the self and the possibilities that everyone possesses to make their story better.

I would categorize the next two sections as more performance art than dance theater.  Much of modern and post-modern choreographic undertakings include these types of non-dance vignettes.  While a completely valid choice, performance art has never been a favorite of mine.  I find the absurdity and randomness that is often present creates a disconnected narrative and doesn't really speak to the overall goal of the piece.  
Katharine Hawthorne's "Lumen/Lux" studies the role and addition of light to movement.  Hawthorne's combination of light and choreography yielded a fascinating experiment which both changed movement and affected outcomes.  A trio for three dancers (Hawthorne, Megan Wright  and Alisha Mitchell), "Lumen/Lux" revealed four important results as Hawthorne injected a flashlight bracelet into her modern dance physicality. 

First, the light was able to increase the range of certain movements.  A simple circling of the upper body became much bigger as the light worked in concert with the body, mimicking and following the same trajectory.  All three dancers had a beautiful serpentine port de corps which was made even more lush with the introduction of light.  Dynamic change was the second revelation, where a relatively benign step could take on a radically different quality when illuminated.  When lit in a particular way, a sternum lift can go from simple to scary and crawling can be transformed into pained writhing.  Third, we saw how the addition of light can work against choreography.  This wasn't a bad thing at all - in fact, it was a positive discovery.  When a light source is utilized at a specific angle, some of the other physical detail can be camouflaged.  It creates a needed uncertainty in the mind of the audience - what did we miss as the light shifted around?  In dance and in art, these questions are good.  Last, the light in "Lumen/Lux" became an equal contributor to the work.  There was an egalitarian quality that made the light like an additional performer or another limb.  This was most apparent when one of the dancers was standing still and circling the light bracelet around the space; it was as if another body was running in a circuit.

The only criticism that I had of "Lumen/Lux" was that for anyone who suffers with even the slightest hint of motion sickness (like I do), they might feel a little headachy by the end of the evening.  Even though there was no strobe present, the amount of 'moving light' was enough to make me a tiny bit queasy. 

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