Live review | Zephyr Dance | “UNMAKING”
During Striding Lion’s , Remember the…(Alamo), each audience member saw essentially the same piece, only from a different angle. Not so Michelle Kranicke’s FADE, one of two works her company, Zephyr Dance, performed the same weekend in . Assigned seating deposited audience members around the room; I was one of two seated smack in the middle of the performance space.
But it was no panopticon. The arrangment put a unique pair of blinders on each viewer, especially during the sneakily introduced beginning, a video projected half on the wall, half on the ceiling, essentially invisible to those sitting below it. (This cornered focus subjected the video, of the dancers’ faces, mostly, replacing one another like rolling hills in a rearview mirror, to an effect like “stretch” in Apple’s Photo Booth app.) Likewise, later, when the six dancers (including Kranicke) began galloping around me and my seatmate, I was only able to see them when they crossed my frame of view. I could follow one of the dancers always, but at the expense of keeping track of what the other five were doing.
Most of it passed in silence, with the group repeating a series of exchanges in three of the room’s four corners, one dancer announcing “Change.” in between each cycle. Within this movement phrase, kept in sync using breathing and visual cues, there were images of wilting (large shapes that curled immediately inward from the extremities), stuttering (expansions that paused frequently, strobelike) and seasoning (thumbs and fingertips that rubbed together, as if dusting deviled eggs with paprika). Facial expressions jogged easily between blank and bemused.
After the final repeat, one dancer announced “Done.” and the next segment began. A duet of entangled arms was spot-lit (by Richard Norwood), throwing a shifting Rorschach shadow on the opposite wall. An adjacent wall hosted close-cropped live video of the encounter. The four arms continued their looping sequences even when the bodies to which they were attached extracted themselves from one another. The aforementioned orbiting galloping occurred, and the work concluded with another duet of entanglement, muted shouting to Ween’s “The Fucked Jam” from Quebec, face-to-profile à la Lasse Hallström’s music videos for ABBA.
FADE begins the year-long, final chapter of Kranicke’s “Erased Dance” series, which from groundwork and research is beginning to pay significant dividends. The choreographer’s invitation “to experience the dance from within, [to choose] certain movements at the expense of others” brought the stated aims of “Erased Dance” home in a way earlier, more traditionally presented installments did in theory but not in practice.
Also getting into the upper register of project duration is Zephyr associate artist Emily Stein, who presented Bonsai #6 after FADE and a brief intermission. (The center chairs were removed, added to the periphery, but I chose another seat anyway, not knowing whether the arrangement would change or not.)
Stein calls it “an experiment with form and memory” and there’s truth in advertising. The quasi-theatrical presentation of a subset of movement chunks chosen at random, “performed in the frame of the choreography, which also contains specific tasks, entrances and exits, processes and groupings that are set,” Bonsai #6 was at its final performance at 2pm on June 11 a pleasantly eccentric combination of details and constraints, given engagingly incongruous political and religious overtones by Ben Hjertmann’s muezzin-esque, live-remixed vocals, doled out among the room’s speakers. Norwood’s chromatic lighting was at times the overflow from unseen neon signs.
After the work ended, one could stroll over to where seven half-sheets of paper and 17 small cards bearing the piece’s menu were laid out, tarot-style, the second time. At Bonsai’s beginning and again halfway through, the dancers congregated around the notes, consulted with one another, and began to dance.
I recognized some of the words, written in different colors, from those whispered while Stein performed a solo, and again while all six dispersed from a clump on their tippy-toes, like molecules in a substance slowly being heated, while Hjertmann’s wails crescendoed. I remember hearing nervous, sticky + hot, and Christmas lights.
“UNMAKING” played Holstein Park Fieldhouse’s auditorium June 9–11, 2011.