Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Synaptic Motion"

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, San Francisco
September 20th, 2014

Clarity of intention is fluid in contemporary dance performance. Sometimes you know what a piece is about; sometimes you don’t; and sometimes it isn’t about anything. Capacitor’s “Synaptic Motion” definitely fits into the first category. Artistic Director Jodi Lomask’s world premiere work utilizes brain scans and other neurological imaging tools in an effort to explore, discover and examine the physical manifestations of creativity. It is a cool and innovative concept. And when “Synaptic Motion” kept to its conceptual foundation, the results were fascinating.
Capacitor in "Synaptic Motion"
Photo: RJ Muna

After the performance, a neurologist generously shared with me the following insight and definition: “neurology is the study of the brain, and the brain is about building connections with other things – other neurons, other networks, other systems”. From the moment you walked into the space, that organic process was evident; themes of change and evolution abounding. The YBCA Forum had been organized almost like a dance exhibit, with few available seats. Instead, the audience was encouraged to stand and move around the room to view the performance from different angles (another cool idea, but it did make it difficult to see from time to time). Much of the action was focused in the center stage space, though surrounding structures and apparatus also served as additional performance platforms. In many of the early scenes, the dancers strung together lines of physical and movement material; adapting and reacting to circumstance with flexibility and pliability, the dynamics ranging from stretchy to shaky. In the first group sequence, a pulse was choreographically derived into small upper body isolations and stunning double pliés. In a later vignette, the ensemble stood in an arc, and one by one, chaînéd to the opposite end, constructing a circular pathway with a circular movement – real-time creation and real-time conversion. These specific variations (and others) really stayed with the conceptual intention and were seeking to express what happens in the brain during the creative process. This was not a linear story, nor was it a deconstructed narrative. “Synaptic Motion” took an initial idea, gained perspective through source material, transferred those findings into original movement, sound and video and then communicated them to an audience.    

“Synaptic Motion” triumphed when the phrase material was both visually interesting and conceptually sound. Unfortunately, there were several scenes in the seventy-minute performance that only fulfilled the visual side of that equation. Each acrobatic variation was impressive and spectacular, no question. But the conceptual connection was a little tenuous. When aerial/acrobatic/contortion work took center stage, the piece tended to go in and out of focus and the flow was compromised. But on second thought, maybe that was kind of the point. Perhaps it was one of the lessons to be learned. Creativity isn’t a linear experience; it is filled with equal parts excitement and transformation, doubt and disruption.   

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