Friday, June 5, 2009

"Field Songs"

On Wednesday I attended my first dance performance since I have been back in the Twin Cities. It was at times delightful and at other times reminiscent of why I left to seek another kind of training.

The first half of the show was choreographically varied and quite engaging. "Lost Lullabies," a piece the company had performed before though I had not yet seen, was among the delightful moments. I was surprised by the use of Jack Johnson music, having figured that Carl would steer clear of pop music all together. The choreography was a perfect balance of creating its own thought line and purpose while reflecting on the musicality and narrative provided through the lyrics. When the piece moved into its second section, I felt it was just the right time to do so, though the music carried the piece on for much longer than I both expected and wished. The world that was created in the first piece was nicely deconstructed and re-built in interesting ways, but simply carried on for too long and lost me in the process.

Leslie O'Niel's piece "Trigger," forced itself to exist in suspended time. While watching the piece, I lost my sense of where I was located in both time and space, just existing with the dancer as she explored a memory that she either retrieved from long ago or simply got dropped into with a little bit of personal context. The astral quality of the music assisted in this feeling of suspension, and the memory seemed to simply fade, not end.

"A Fractured Narrative for a Sad Ending," was another piece that felt slightly too long for what it was offering. Despite this, I found myself immersed in a series of actions that at first did not seem to lend to one another, but contextualized themselves as things went along, keeping me interested for the most part and never able to guess how the next set of feelings would be communicated. The 'fracturing' lead to a lot of interesting juxtapositions between sections, causing the feelings the piece moved through to come across even more stark. I found myself most interested in the utilization of props and color - the use of a plexi-glass wall between the two main characters, which later served as a place for the smearing of paint, as well as the opposition created between pieces according to the color palates presented provided mind-bending ways for the 'fracturing' to take place. Instead of discerning a direct connection between the plexi-glass paint wall and the narrative, I was simply moved by the wall's presence and the way it was utilized, giving me a place to connect to the piece without becoming too distracted or worried by why the wall was present.

Flink's new piece "Field Songs," composed the second half of the show. Complete with a live roots-rock quartet and a dance floor of sod, this piece fulfilled its promise of being scenically and aurally pleasing. These elements were enough to make me enjoy the experience, however, I hoped for a more filled out product when it came to the choreography. The ideas being explored regarding urban sprawl and its affect upon the people of dying out rural communities are both interesting and terribly important issues, but also huge issues. When taking on such a large topic, it is quite difficult to really deliver a package of thought unless the product is very focused, and focus is what I felt this piece lacked.

On the contrary to a couple of the pieces in the first half, I left that this piece could have been longer, as there is plenty of room in this large topic to explore, but not without a clear focus. I felt that what the dancers were going through were real and important physically, but because the characters were given little chance to contextualize themselves as people, I had a difficult time identifying with what they were feeling and seeing it as important and impactful.

However, back to scenic interest, everything that was happening physically was aided by the interesting scenic ideas. One dancer spent the entirety of the piece sitting in a small 'garden,' in the middle of her concrete jungle (which took up about a third of the laid stage, the other two-thirds being grass), placing pieces of grass into the ground one by one. What an interesting physical image - one that certainly would not have crossed my mind - that just continued to pull me in and keep me involved with its presence. Additionally, the placing of pieces of concrete to create a pathway across the grass toward the end of the piece was symbolic and genuine enough that everything leading up to this action was made worth it just to get there.

All in all, the scenic elements created a great world in which to explore such important concepts, though the exploration does not yet feel complete; greater work toward making genuinely connected use of intelligent, impactful live music, and striving toward more defined characters with strong, focused messages could carry this piece even further into both the feild and our feelings.