NW New Works | Weekend 2 May 18, 2008

by Sara E

Be prepared for an overload of sounds and images—this is one of the main themes that runs through this evening of multimedia performances. This weekend’s mainstage artists throw us into the pit of our loud, distracting modern world, where there are a multiplicity of media, sounds and images vying for out attention. With the first piece, Remote::Control (Danny Herter and the Invasive Species) we are not let out of the pit until the very end. A number of audience members found the original soundscore by the duo Disjunct (Ryan Dunn & Ogo Eion) to be unrelenting and overly grating to the ears, however this was entirely its intention. Personally, I did not feel pushed away by the music/sound, but was able to find a way inside of its sharp, static repetition. Of most interest to me was the dancing, which is indeed a compliment given that I often come away from dance concerts or performances thinking that the least interesting element was the dancing. Danny Herter and Morgan Nutt, underwear clad TV watchers, who play the primary characters in the piece, perform some stunning choreography, which is itself fast and unrelenting. When they were on stage, I found my eyes most often on them; there is a real artistic strength in the choreography and movement. Of great irony is the fact that we are watching two incredibly fit TV slobs responding to their seemingly obsessive TV watching in a physically very intelligent and precise way. The circus-like character of Nikolai Lesmikov brought necessary comic relief to the piece and he was also a pure delight to watch. Awesome clearly has fun when they are on stage and as a result we, the audience, also have fun. There are some quiet moments: a guitar here, a softly stroked violin there, a harp in one corner, then an accordion in another; yet most memorable, is the rambunctious sound and activity of the ensemble as they tote around instruments, throw confetti and bang on drums. To add to that list is Amy O’neals fiery dance—fierce and calculated, yet deliberately humorous and human at other moments. What I enjoyed watching most was the social, organic creature that Awesome succeeds in creating on stage: an intelligent microcosm of the human species. We see the individual on stage, innocently responding to his/her limited vantage point—we perhaps identify with this individual but also laugh at his/her weaknesses. We then see the bigger system in which the individual lives, yet which s/he is not fully aware of. Caught in our individual lives, we so often unaware of the bigger organism we are part of. The piece also lead me to some other juicy analogies and commentary on human life, but I do not want to reveal to much or spin in too much of my own interpretation. Whereas the other pieces look at the outward lives of humans, Launch Dance Theater’s pro re nata, takes us on a profound inward journey. This piece, with its ample space, clean images and movement, and soul-searching, inward-journeying text (by Rebecca Brown, read by Rhonda Soikowski) is an aberration to an evening that is otherwise about sensory and cultural overload. The text, however, is layered with meaning, and because the themes and stories of pro re nata, slowly evolve through the course of the performance, I was left, particularly in the beginning, sometimes guessing at context, or creating my own context. I can only assume, however, that this was intentional; that the stories and characters did not have strict borders, that, in essence, I was being asked to come into the picture myself, to consider the concepts of loss and place within the stories of my life. Brown’s poetic prose, circles, turns, then suspends—in a way not unlike the three main dancers on stage. Emotions of sorrow and loss are genuinely explored by the artists and performers of pro re nata. Of all the pieces, this is one that I need to see again. I know that here inside of this piece, inside of the text, inside of the layers of performance and media (which by the way, do not overwhelm), there is a lot more for me to capture. My immediate response to Hooliganship’s Realer is fun, loud, fast, sit on the couch and throw down a giant Slurpie of colorful pop/rave culture. The program notes for this piece, provide a much better and more accurate description of the group and Realer than I could ever concoct: Hooliganship is  “a multimedia power grunge party band ” that creates performances  “reveling in a hypnotic abundance of digital information. ” Yes, exactly! Really, to gain an inkling of what this piece is about you have to see/ experience it: words completely fail to describe the borage of sounds, colors and images that are literally thrown at you with the aid of 3-D glasses. It is definitely a party/rave atmosphere. We are even taken on a hallucinatory journey through the underworld of our sewage system, which is filling with a mysterious, yellow viscous liquid! While the curators undoubtedly grouped the evening’s performances together based on themes and media, there is an uncanny connection between subject matter and even props. During a portion of the Realer video, I swore that Awesome’s confetti balls which had filled the stage floor during the second performance of the evening were appearing on the video screen in this final piece. Then there were the remote controls and television in this last piece, and the televisions and the name,  “Remote::Control ” in the first piece. The list goes on. I found the first and final pieces to be particularly interesting book ends, given that they were both fast and unrelenting, yet the first one was critical of our electronic/ media culture and the final piece, completely celebratory of it. - Liz Erber