Impressions

Jordan Fuchs

 

As the air moves back from you.

 

A grid of 3 rows by 6 rows of beach towel sized approximately one-inch thick plots of rice.

 

Depending on how close you are to the rice it can look like a carpet, like flying carpets, like beach towels.

 

There is an overall meta structure beyond the dancing itself that I appreciate. Coming into the space and it being mostly empty. Just having the opportunity to see the light projections as they dance on the rectangles of rice. And then it gets closer to the performance and more audience arrives and the space fills with people. And then the performance space fills with dancers, five in all. And then after the dance, the dancers leave the space and it returns to the plots of rice and the dancing of the light projections on the rice. And then the audience leaves the space. An overall development of simple to complex back to simple. An ABA structure of light and rice and then light and rice and dancers and then back to light and rice again. Or even an ABCBA structure of lights and rice plots, lights and rice plots with audience, lights and rice plots with audience and dancers, back to lights and rice with audience, then back to lights and rice plots.

 

It takes a while to register the patterns in the light projections. Some play with textures, turning the plots of rice into raked sands and then sky-scapes with clouds ambling again and then into undulating seas of gently moving waves. Then too there is the play with the lit and unlit, creating abstract patterns of presence and absence within the lights plots. And too shifts of color. Some times different shapes of different colors within each light plot and then too the whole field of plots lit the same hue then transforming into another hue, creating a glow of light reflecting off the rice plots and onto the walls of the rooms. But a constant is that there is no constant. Although the shifting of the lights seems to be in an ordered pattern, in that the different elements of the light projects happen in the same order rather than constantly shuffling the order of the parts, each shift is never long enough for my eye. I want to bask in the light patterns colors and undulations longer but the light projections induce a scarcity, always changing before I have had enough.

 

Also too it is interesting to me how light and the clear delimiting of the lit and unlit conveys intelligence for me. As the dark space fills with a light projection starting at the center line of the grids and simultaneously moves in a line across the three rows to the exterior without lighting the space in between the rice plots, it reminds me of alien spaceships and tractor beams. A strong light without visible source, sensing and tracking as it moves through space reading the space as it moves through it. Light as intelligence and as perception? Light as being?

 

The light shifts on the plots of rice never quite last long enough as desired also function thanks to the complexity of the whole vista. The changes in the development of the light coming too quickly with too much variation within the whole field of the plots to ever gain an understanding of the whole. There is too much complexity and not enough time to negotiate. But I am not overwhelmed. The music, electronic and right for shaping the space, creates a cocoon at the intersection of light and sound that I am happy to linger within, myself, as an audience member in the unlit border around this field of rice plots and light. 

 

And this already is so much and then dancers come into the space and into the field of rice plots at the intersection between light and sound and texture, and it is really so much. And as I see the dancers I wonder what is it that draws them to this space? Is it a ritual field of some sort or just an abstract floor pattern of avoidance and permission. Clearly touching the rice plots is to be avoided. But why? I keep wondering what is the dance that this intersection of light, sound and texture demands. What originates from this space? Thinking too, how can one know before having a chance to be in the space, how to move in the space. The dancers are also costumed in white like the rice plots. My guess is that this is a ritual space of some kind. What sort of rituals are there? Birth, death, renewal, marriage, adulthood. From the Thursday 12:30pm run, I don't understand the movements of the dancers in this ritual space. There is a layering overtop but not a transformation of the space. My perspective is limited. I don't have a sense of how this section of the overall work connects to the sections that proceeded it and will then follow.

 

I am not typically one for ritual rather than abstraction but in this case the movements of the dancers, abstract as I interpret them, don't register the space they are in. Or perhaps it is just me and with the dancers in the space for me there was so much information happening. So much complexity that it was the moments of simplicity and unison that registered more effectively for me. Like at the end with just Tiffany in the space. I can see a soloist or a duet, but five people is so much. It is therefore the moments of all or near all walking in a line in the same direction that register for me. Or the moments of stillness or near stillness.

 

But too I have this longing for duration within this ritual space. 15 minutes is so brief. What about an hour or at least 30? A space for just a duet, just a trio. Allowing the duration for the audience to negotiate the complexity of light, sound, texture and then the exponentially complex shift of moving from a largely two dimensional space to a three dimensional architecture of dancers in the room and then even more than that the dancers moving in variations to each other. What of a soloist in the space, replaced by a duet, then by a trio? Or an accumulation up to the whole quintet? And instead laying end to end, or consecutively, much of the action that is now happening simultaneously.

 

What movement would work in such a ritual space? This morning I think of the slowness of Butoh, perhaps offering more of an opportunity to register the interplay of light on the moving three-dimensionally dynamic surfaces of the dancers. Again though I feel the limitations of not being able to know the whole and how this piece is intended to function within the whole, so I can only consider it as its own whole, however misguided that may leave me.

 

What are the rules of this ritual space? How do you enter and exit? Once inside it, aside from not touching the rice plots, what else must be accomplished? What are the relationships between the dancers? Why must they be in this space together? Or is their togetherness only a coincidence and once inside they are engaged in their own private rituals? What is it you do in this ritual space of pathways and rice plots? How is it you move and what is it that your movement accomplishes?

 

Then day two.

 

I view the piece this time from the narrow side, three rows of plots before me, extending six plots. From this side I am more easily able to realize the order within the complexity. The grid is divided into two sections, with three rows on one side and three rows on the other, and each of these two grids is the mirror image of the other. The plots closest to me match the plots furthest away, though the projector bulb of the downstage grid of nine plots is a warmer more amber light than the light upstage away from me.

 

Today I notice the gallery lights are added before the dancers enter the space, warming the space and gently fading the intricacies of the projected light patterns.

 

This time the dancers enter the space with less import. They just enter and they move in the pathways formed by the grid of space in between the rice plots.  They turn and change patterns frequently perpendicular in their paths. Their movements are almost robotic at times. Frequently they each have their own solo phrase work, which they repeat throughout. I don't understand what their movements mean to them. They do it and they do it clearly, but it is cold and lifeless and specific. There are lifts that happen, but there is so little warmth of relationship between the dancers prior to the lift that the lifts seem way too much too soon. How can they lift each other? They haven't even yet shaken hands. The lifts happen. Movement happens, but I am frustrated because I don't understand why any of it is happening.

 

This is such a special place that has been created and realized through so much effort and with such intention that it is hard for me to countenance any possibility that doesn't glorify the space. Instead it seems just the opposite. The potential for developing the beauty of the space is thwarted. The dancers rather than bringing warmth and humanness, bring coldness, isolation, the mechanical and the abstract, to what otherwise was a lovely cocoon at the intersection of light, sounds, and rice plots on the floor. Counter intuitively it was the intersection of the mechanical and inanimate, the lights, the sound waves and the rice, that created the warmth and it was the human, the dancers, that seemed to thwarted that warmth, bringing the cold, the mechanical and the isolated. Rather than building on the beauty of the space before they enter, the dance seems to function by thwarting that possibility towards a much bleaker place of movements that don't register, don't express, of relationships between dancers that are pointless in what does or doesn't happen. And this is a tough pill to swallow. It is not where I wanted to go, which was towards the wonder of this space created. And it is hard for me to understand. Only seeing a part of the whole I can't see how this section relates to the others and the development between the four. So I am left brewing at the wonder of this carefully constructed space and carefully considered choreography, but not knowing how this movement vocabulary derives from this space or connects to this space. 

 

And once the last of the dancers leaves the space the gallery lights fade and there is a return to the greater vividness of the light projections. I can't help feeling that the space was denied, was ignored, intentionally so, but still hard to accept. I am unsettled but appreciative at having been so shifted. And I am curious to know more.

© 2016 Angier Performance Works

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