Green Glitters in an EDM Dance Experiment

There is something magical about seeing a live show on a whim. There is less pressure for it to be anything other than a pleasant surprise. Yesterday afternoon I found myself itching to see a dance show. Looking online, I found Rebecca Green’s Experiment in Three Parts at Live Arts Los Angeles. Performed by a cast of women that included Amy Chihara, Emily Krause, Dina Lasso, and Rebecca Green, the evening length work was three parts electronic dance music and one part glitter, as the decidedly feminine movement material balanced the ooze of shape-flowing torsos with the athleticism of release-based contemporary modern dance techniques.

One of the most notable aspects of the show was the candy rave-reminiscent costumes by Rose Strasen. Pastel sports bras and bike shorts with overlays of iridescent organza in varying designs were quirky, youthful, and reminiscent of the electronic dance music festivals with which the corresponding music is often associated. Pigtails, facial highlights, and a scalp full of glitter finished off the millennial look. In contrast to the near childlike, animéIMG_4392 costumes, the movement alternated between subtle dispassion and dynamic athleticism. The combination produced an otherworldly feel that was both emotionally remote and unpredictable.

The work included three parts and an interlude. It began with a patient and irregularly structured duet, “Rear View,” in which the two dancers, Amy Chihara and Dina Lasso, interacted with somatic curiosity while reveling in extended periods of stillness. The structure was unpredictable and as slippery as the movements within the phrase work. Solos turned into duets and back into solos, with unexpected exits and entrances. The movement theme of looking and seeing provided the strongest inroad to the work. The dancers looked over their shoulders, looked at each other, and looked into space with a clarity of vision that allowed the audience to sink into the moment.

“Interlude” was a brief duet featuring the other two dancers, Emily Krause and Rebecca Green. Lit entirely by a single front light with the feel of a large Maglite, the piece focused on the dancers exchanging depths of field and planes of space. While I really enjoyed this section, it was unclear how and why it was separated out as an interlude.

The longest section, called “Sparkle List,” was the grandest choreographic experiment as it utilized the four dancers performing through their choreographed material as spontaneously set to a DJ-mixed (Kyle McCarthy) soundtrack consisting of dancer-selected music tracks within the electronic dance music and party music genres. If it sounds complicated, it was. At least, it wasn’t quite clear from the program note to what degree the movement was set to music or performed by chance. From what I could discern, some of the movement was choreographed and performed to whatever music happened to be playing. Other sections were set to specific songs, and when that song was randomly played, the dancers had to stop whatever they were doing, perform the new phrase or section, and then return to where they left off in the bigger scheme of the choreography. The lighting shifts (designed by Jesse Baldridge in collaboration with Bryanna Brock, Gigi Todisco, and Jordan Saenz) helped clarify the two different approaches. However, even I was a little unsure of the nature of the structure. In some ways, it was like a game that one might play in a choreography class while studying chance dance structures. The result of this grand experiment was a very physical dance that required all of the performers to be alert and aware in order to remain unshaken by any of the changes thrown at them. The dancers had no clear emotional response to the changes, thus creating a dispassionate feel to the work as a whole as if they were emotionally detached and at the mercy of the music structures presented to them.

The last section was improvised by Emily Krause, and the audience had buttons allowing them to control the changes of music. A press of the button would skip the track forward on the playlist. The theatricality of this section was refreshing and fun as Krause modeled her gymnastic athleticism and dramatic knack. The title, “Nobody Cares You’re a Sad Girl,” while charming, didn’t seem to fit the premise of the work, but the perhaps misplaced title didn’t detract from the fun of pushing the button, hearing the music shift, and seeing the dance change directions.IMG_4533

Overall, this show gives the audience a lot to think about and reflect on. I deeply appreciate the improvisational risks taken during the evening. The dancers were lovely, and the dynamic interplay of the body’s weight with gravity, as embedded in Green’s choreographic style, is fun to see and experience. My only real qualm with the show came early on, in the form of having to wait outside before being let into the theater. While the evening was rather mild, it was still unorthodox as we listened to the dance music pumping inside. Were they warming up? Practicing? Who knew. At the very least, it was good music. But then the audience, once allowed in right at 8:30 p.m. (the advertised start time), waited an additional twenty-five minutes in silence before the show began. While I understand the nature of rushing to the finish line on these small independent and experimental dance performances, I found it inconsiderate bordering on rude that no announcement was made during this time. At one point, I turned to a fellow audience member and asked, “Are they going to start the show?” He replied, “This is the show.” I was about to believe him, thinking it would be very Cage-Cunningham in a show that advertised itself with a focus on contemporary music and chance relationships with movement. But then he added, “No, this isn’t it. There is a show.” Luckily the show was enjoyable, well-paced, and not too long, but there was a moment when I thought I might leave before it began. If I hadn’t brought along two other people, I would have considered it more intently. Yes, the show had a loose and slightly informal feel, but it is still important to acknowledge the agreements one has with the attending audience. I recommend that when things get squeezed or pushed late, at the very least, it is courteous to make an announcement and to offer the audience free refreshments in the meantime.

 

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