With the intensely loud boom of an industrial elevator, the curtain springs open. This first impression of closely synchronized sound immediately creates an impression of control and narrative that continues throughout State of Heads. On an all-white stage bathed in white light and the hushing drone of faraway machines, a single figure stands for many long moments. He is completely still, dressed in an all-white suit, his back to the audience, his head hanging vacantly. Eventually, two women in white dresses join him, their heads racheting like mechanical marionettes. And then what seemed to be white light becomes burning white, rendering the striking scene directly onto the surface of the retina.
During State of Heads, these three bodies engage in a dialectic of control, fighting through a lack of autonomy towards personal choice and human movements. Often, they are yanked back into submission. Their bodies are mostly limited to robot or puppet motions and frustratingly restricted. Loose lolling heads, mechanized motion, repetitive gestures, habitual communications. The synch sound which joins many of their movements gives a strangely concrete specificity, but one which doesn’t “match” – heads ratchet, limbs squeak like rusty winches, hands flutter like thin metal, bodies shatter like porcelain.
The dance progresses in distinct stages, as the three characters are plunged through depths of interaction. The white clothes are peeled off to reveal warm internal reds and oranges. The glowing screen behind them becomes deep underwater blue. Sounds of rolling ceramic are joined by rolling hips in more organic spheres. A metal ball-bearing rolls across a tabletop and falls into water with a humorous plop. There are many moments of humorous futility and futile humor, communication which seems so proscribed as to be useless and moments of expression which are lost – the lonely dancer of ballroom dreams. State of Heads is gripping from the first moment, with its beautifully clean, tangible sound score and clear, simple choreography.
Leap to Tall is like the mirror image of the previous dance. Again, the curtain opens with a mechanical sound, this time a buzz saw cuts open space to reveal an all black stage and three dancers in blacks and dark purples. The positions of the figures are reversed, with the single male looking out, standing still, as two females shuttle across the stage behind him. Leap to Tall works with a dense vocabulary of movements, fluid human motions that draw from many different sources – from everyday gesture to a wide variety of dance styles. The score is also widely ranging, alternating between the folksy music and glossalia of imaginary cultures to field recordings and sound effects. The audio edits are oddly and disconcertingly abrupt, occasionally in ways which serve the narrative and sometimes in ways which just feel awkward. Leap to Tall engages the movement-language of relationships – joining, splitting, taunting, grouping, holding, teasing, pushing and pulling. It is a much less focused piece, richly complex and allowing for a drifting imagination.
- posted by Seth Nehil