Monday, October 18, 2021

FACT/SF - "Split"


Charles Slender-White in Split
Photo Robbie Sweeny

screened virtually October 17th, 2021

Last month, CounterPulse invited experimental performance enthusiasts to engage with a plethora of new work during the 2021 CounterPulse Festival. As part of that event, FACT/SF, under the Artistic Direction of Charles Slender-White, debuted Split – a short physical monologue with a unique one-to-one format. One performer sharing the solo with a single audience member that, as shared in the press materials, followed the complex path of identity formation, specifically queer identity. Text (spoken in real-time by the performer) underscored much of the captivating soliloquy, which at my Zoom viewing, was interpreted with aplomb by Slender-White.

Ahead of the live performance, viewers were treated to a brief pre-recorded video that oscillated between two states: the faces of individual FACT/SF company dancers submerged in water and an array of specks floating on a blue screen. I wasn’t sure exactly what the specks were but they looked like the seedhead of a dandelion; once a single entity, now scattered into a hundred pieces. Demeanor of the cast varied greatly throughout, calm stillness giving way to intense screaming. Similar oppositional pulls would unfold over the next fifteen minutes, leading one to consider how the notion of extremes may inform and perhaps, even for some, beget identity.  

The setting was simple: a hallway and two side tables topped with water basins. On this blank canvas, Slender-White would journey through Split’s potent extremes. Swimming motions of the head, arms and legs imbued the opening minutes. Quickly angular, sharp turns took over. A slow forward port de bras morphed into a strong dynamic lunge. Full body slides were juxtaposed against small movements of the rotator cuff and the hip. And stretchy arabesque imagery showed intense dual forces at play – the front arm longing to reach into the forward space, with the back arm unable to ignore the pull from behind. 

Two visuals from Split require special mention. In one instant, Slender-White started a slow, sagittal body curve from standing all the way to the floor. It was miraculous. And as the piece concluded, he plunged his face into one of the water bowls. Structurally, it connected the prelude video with the live performance, but there was a deeper narrative at play. The scene seemed almost baptismal, but not necessarily with a religious context. It felt like a moment of personal rebirth. 

Split continues through October 30th – details at

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