Saturday, June 20, 2009 08:46 AM
On the Stage - Look Inside (plus an adventure in the Blue Grotto)
 by Fëanor

poppy is a huge fan of a local dancer named Meredith Rainey, partly because he's amazingly talented, and partly because he's totally hot (according to her, anyway). So when she saw he had a solo show, she had to go. Of course I came along. We arrived at the venue (the Community Education Center) a little early. An older gentleman saw us sitting outside and invited us to go downstairs into the basement and check out some art while we were waiting. We like art, so we took him up on his invitation right away. Turns out there's a whole installation down there called Blue Grotto that was full of little signs and lights and found object sculptures and knickknacks, all with a blue color scheme. It was like entering a separate little world. It's very, very cool. Although it was also slightly creepy. The two of us were alone in a rather dark basement, having been invited there by a random old guy. What if he was a serial killer planning to turn us into part of the installation?

Luckily, he was not. Or maybe he was, but we left too quickly for him to prepare a deadly trap for us. In any case, soon afterwards we went back upstairs, paid the entrance fee for the dance, and picked up our programs. We were both disappointed (although poppy more than me, I suspect) when we learned from the program that Meredith had just choreographed the performance and wouldn't be dancing himself. A few minutes later we went inside to see the show.

The theater in the CEC is just a tiny black box kind of deal, with the audience seated on a few rows of bleachers across the long back wall and the padded dance floor immediately in front of them (some of the chairs up front were practically on the "stage"). In the center of the floor was a large (maybe 14'x14'x14'?) open cube made of metal pipes. On the side facing us were two half-curtains, one dark and one light, both transparent. The opposite side was the same but the colors were reversed. The other sides of the cube had only one light colored half-curtain each; where the dark curtain would have been was just an opening. The dancers - one man and one woman - entered from the side of the room. The woman stepped into the cube while the man remained outside. The woman performed a series of gestures while the man seemed to watch her out of the corner of his eye and attempted to mimic her. "No, that's not what I saw," she said. She performed the gestures again, slightly differently this time, as the man continued to mimic her. "That's what I saw," she said. Then the performance began in earnest.

Look Inside is an intense and powerful piece that seems to be about various conflicting dualities: dark and light, motion and stillness, man and woman, love and anger, interior and exterior, looking and being looked at versus seeing and being seen, touching and being touched versus feeling and being felt, the real and the performed, the present and the past. It's about voyeurism, memory, and art. The dancers sometimes embraced passionately, sometimes seemed to be fighting each other in slow motion. They would hold each other tightly, then seem to strike out at each other or push each other away. At other times they stopped moving entirely and simply sat or laid on the ground. Video of the dancers performing was often projected on the cube, sometimes while the dancers were resting, sometimes while they were still dancing. Sometimes the video was of them as they were moving at that moment; at one point it was a reversed recording of them doing a dance we hadn't seen before - later they did the same piece live. There was a particularly moving moment when the video being projected was of the man falling over and over, then suddenly the video of the man landing synced up with the man's live movements, as if the recording had fallen into the present. Sometimes one dancer would point at the other for long moments, as if accusingly, the finger also turning out into the audience. Sometimes the man would reach between the curtains of the cube to try to touch the woman inside, but she would retreat. There were a few really unnerving moments when the dancers walked right up to the audience and scanned us slowly with their eyes, staring right at us. The staging, and the dance as a whole, was powerfully transformed when the male dancer suddenly lifted up the entire cube and dragged it off to the side, slamming it back down to the ground again. Later the dancers transformed things again by picking up the cube and spinning it around so a corner of it was pointing at us, instead of a flat face. Another transformation had to do with the costuming; about halfway through the dancers, who had been wearing simple, all white costumes, left briefly and came back wearing the same costumes, but now in black.

I'll admit, sometimes when I'm watching dance, especially classical dance, I'll get bored and start to drift off. But this piece was so intense, fresh, contemporary, engaging, thought-provoking, and passionate, it had me riveted throughout. There's another performance tonight, and Meredith Rainey is going to make an announcement at a reception afterwards. poppy expects he'll be starting his own company. I hope that's true, and wish him all the best. He's an amazing talent.
Tagged (?): Art (Not), Dance (Not), On the Stage (Not)

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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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