zoe|juniper | Dance review
There’s good-strange, bad-strange, and then there’s something in between. If A Crack in Everything, now playing at the Dance Center, falls in one of these categories it’s the latter of the three.
Seattle-based husband-and-wife team Zoe Scofield (choreographer/performer) and Juniper Shuey (visual artist), founders of zoe|juniper, note in the program that A Crack in Everything attempts to “expand and examine the liminal space between action-reaction, cause-effect and before-after.” As ambiguous as the couple may sound, Scofield and Shuey convey the notion well based on various deliveries. Dressed in cosmic-looking costumes adorned with gold foil, and wearing extravagant headpieces, the dancers torque and writhe behind a see-through scrim. It acts like a boxed prism; from inside, the dancers diverge and coalesce before flashes of light cut to black. The separation between the audience and the performers is palpable, as Shuey later uses a series of virtual dancers and projects them onto the scrim. It’s a nice contrast with the real ones, and the method feels novel. The scrim, ultimately, gets lifted and the segregated dimensions of this foreign world change for the better.
Complicating matters is a long piece of red thread attached to a hooded, faceless figure. Like a connector, the thread acts as metaphor for “capture and journey,” as Scofield notes in the program. Thankfully, it’s not as cliché as it seems. Without the string’s taut buoyancy the five dancers are lost in darkness, as made clear by the conclusion of the dance.
All this makes for engaging material, but one of the more bizarre shifts of the night is when Scofield and Raja Feather Kelly sit across from one another. They undress and begin barking like disgruntled dogs. The confrontation is tepidly erotic and egregiously jarring, but it’s also confusing. Consequently, the piece never fully recovers. If there’s meaning in this animalistic confrontation, it’s lost in all the howling.
The selling point of this performance and, ironically, what zoe|juniper struggles to sustain, is its dark richness. Such an intriguing start turns into a corrosively bizarre and laborious process, a mixture of pauses and slow-to-act phrases. It doesn’t do justice to the strong beginning or the surprising end. The audience is left wondering if so many contrasts can coexist in 70 minutes. That’s likely a matter of taste. But despite the muddled layering of its show, zoe|juniper proves it’s not afraid to be daring. As strange as the piece may be (good, bad, or otherwise), there’s lots to appreciate.
zoe|juniper performs A Crack in Everything at the Dance Center Friday 15 and Saturday 16.