This year, I challenged myself to up my dance writing in the form of jotting down reflections of shows I see or dance experiences I have. This round of this challenge to myself, I will focus on the production Reflection House, a new work by choreographer Jennifer Glaws/ Jagged Moves. I'm familiar with her work, after almost ten years of seeing it evolve, and one of the things that struck me most was the clarity of her pathway forward as an artist.
I was able to see bits and pieces of ideas she's been chewing on for awhile, as well as new threads that have developed in the last couple of years to take her where she is headed. Regarding long-held ideas of focus, I saw Glaws playing with soundscapes driven by heavy beats made into a full aural pallet by way of a network of interesting sound effects derived from everyday life and fantasy, webbed around one another. This made way for the dancers (who were stunning) to weave in and out of the sound, sometimes interacting with it directly and other times existing alongside it.
Another idea I feel she's been exploring and continues to examine is the interplay of solo movement themes that build into duets and exist amongst the action of the full group of performers. This framework landed particularly well within the life of this production's concept, the exploration of how humans yearn for self and group understanding or fit. Glaws' program note included terminology "selected and collected identity," which I found to be particularly revealing when viewing this new work. The dancers moved through this idea with equal measures of groundedness and inquiry, embodying the human experience of being equal parts confidence and questioning, not only of the world around us but how we move ourselves within it.
A relatively emerging aspect of Jennifer's artistry is further building the world her choreographic work moves within by way of video technology. She made interesting use of pre-created images, including silhouettes of bodies in interesting shapes, which dancers attempted to fit themselves into and around, as well as live video capture and projection, which snagged visuals of dancers moving through the moment we were experiencing together, once removed by a camera. Also incorporated were sketch-like visuals that shifted throughout the room as the dancers teetered back and forth from one side to another, one raised platform to the next.
Another creative element that felt new to me in experiencing Jennifer's work was the very physical incorporation of set. The space had been molded from an open gallery in a multi-artist studio building (a very ingenuitous find for a performance location) into a veritable adult playground. While the ramps and platforms and walls were stark white, they very much created a simultaneous sense of obstacle and play, speaking to the concept of the work. They provided complicated and intriguing surfaces for not only the dancers to experiment with, but for video projection experimentation as well.
I'd like to come back to those stunning dancers. These performers were very much in it in self and their group while also connecting with viewers in a way that felt genuine and of them moment, rather than put on or directed as clear audience engagement can sometimes feel. They were raw in their physicality, attentive in their listening to the sound, each other and the space and generally just a kinesthetic thrill. Of particular note was the solo section performed by Mirabai Miller, through which she twisted to, accented and offered question of a segment of spoken text addressing the course of self development and internal and external perception. With a wide range of physicality and dynamic in both choreography and performance, this section is still imprinted on my mind days later.
As a whole, Reflection House was an intriguing next step in the formation of Glaws' artistic voice, and one that I'm likely to continue pondering. She weaved together a great deal of production elements in a way that they felt cohesive and fully-supportive of her exploration, yet left me with unsolved inquiries about the sense of "selected and collected identity" it got me thinking about and feeling.