Myth & Continent | Preview
The new dance-theater collage by Ginger Krebs mirrors clashes within our disorienting, disorganized culture.
Myth & Continent begins with its cast of five standing in a line, almost shoulder-to-shoulder, doing something that looks like nodding off, but in reverse—nodding “on,” perhaps, swaying first just a tiny bit, then more broadly, then breaking away from their adjacent spots. They disperse to stake claims throughout the rehearsal studio, in the basement of a School of the Art Institute building.
As a group, the five move from a flat arrangement to one more multidimensional. With Myth & Continent, premiering Friday 22 at, director Ginger Krebs set out to explore with the ensemble how an increasing proportion of two-dimensional experiences affects the lives we live in three-dimensional bodies. In one section, the dancers tool around the floor, seated on wheeled stools, holding rounded rectangular windshields in front of their faces.
An early version of the hour-long piece, shown in December at the Chicago Cultural Center, had a section wherein each of the dancers paced like caged animals, confined to small zones marked on the floor with neon-colored tape. (The outlines represented tight spaces in which the performers spend significant amounts of time in their real lives, such as a walk-in freezer at the Whole Foods where Jose Hernandez works, or the narrow path around the workbench in Bryan Saner’s woodworking studio, which he’s retraced almost daily for 18 years.) Since December, these cells have evolved into cutouts in a single sheet of Astroturf, each a simple, round-cornered version of the original shape. They now look like silhouettes of application icons in an operating system. “I want each of them to feel designy and purchaseable,” Krebs tells me later.
Each dancer eventually breaks free except one, Sara Zalek, who stays behind for a long while, reclined on the floor and looking outward like the figure in Christina’s World, a 1948 painting by Andrew Wyeth that captures the moment he watched, through a window in his summer home, as a neighbor, half-paralyzed by polio, crawled across a field.
As the dancers continue the rough run-through, Krebs jogs around the studio with her notepad to observe from a variety of angles.
The score, which Krebs collaged from various sources, similarly moves from static soundscapes into greater depth of field, both emotionally and tonally. Garbled noises like intercepted radio communications between aliens give way to the rapid-fire pops of what sound like volleys in a game of Ping-Pong, followed by a solo piano impromptu by Schubert and then a soothing, New Agey tune that accompanies Hernandez’s monologue inviting us to an exotic landscape, using clichéd language as flat as a travel brochure. (He’s flanked by 2-D set pieces depicting boulders and vegetation spray-painted by Zebadiah Arrington in a style between Chinese landscape scrolls and graffiti.)
A more clipped, dispassionate monologue later, delivered by Aurora Tabar, quotes marketing slogans for GPS navigation devices.
Krebs tells me later via e-mail that she’s not looking for an “antidote” to being flattened by contemporary culture. Rather, the work is intended to help “this representational facade give way to the foundational fact of the performers’ commitment to one another, and to meeting in a space for eight months, to think together, through their bodies.”
She adds, “If anything can counteract the commoditization, numbing and disconnection, it is this simple fact of showing up, sharing space and listening to one another.”
Journey to Myth & Continent at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater beginning Friday 22.