Exploring Identity Through Media and Movement

Guest Review by Morpheus Kostromin and Gabe Valentine

The Mythology of Self, Photo by Denise Leitner, Laurie Sefton Choreographer, September 9, Dancer Alisa Carreras with Photographer Skye Schmidt

From Laurie Sefton Creates comes a show rich with insights about individual identity in modern times. Mythology of Self and Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, premiering at Stomping Grounds LA, delves deeply into the perspectives of various individuals as they react to their environment and circumstances. Featuring original recorded music from Victoria Vasta, Emer Kinsella, and Bryan Curt Kostors, and a live solo from mezzo soprano Carmen Voskuhl, the show opens boldy with dancer Mizuki Sako taking the stage to don a colorful, couture-esque costume by Leon Wiebers.

This first piece, entitled Mythology of Self, is a well-coordinated, multi-media exploration of identity experienced through multiple lenses. A host of artists from disparate disciplines join the dancers on stage – photographer Skye Schmidt, visual artists German Diaz and Anna Carerras, and mezzo soprano Carmen Voskuhl. In real time as the dancers perform Sefton’s choreography to Voskuhl’s powerful voice, Shmidt shoots digital photographs which are then altered by the visual artists and, in turn, projected on screen behind the dancers. This creates an effect akin to a game of telephone– the audience sees the mover, then the photo, and then the final edit, each of which providing a separate perspective on the same individual.

The Mythology of Self, Choreographer Laurie Sefton, Photo by Skye Schmidt, Digital Alternation German Diaz, Dancer Mizuki Sako, September 10, 2022

Each dancer inhabits a unique character within the piece, and as the piece progresses the audience comes to know multiple facets of their identity. Costuming, facial expression, postural stance, and gestures all help differentiate characters within the movement phrasing. The dancers perform a variety of athletic choreography ranging from intense floorwork to powerful, grounded springs revealing distinct motivation in the dynamics of their performance. Facial expressions further reveal the characters’ emotional response to the developing situations. The performers never exit the performance space and this enables them to observe and react to the central action even while on the side. The lighting design by Dan Weingarten plays a crucial role in helping differentiate the highlighted center where the characters exhibit more confidence (even if contrived) from the dimly lit sidelines where the audience sees the characters’ insecurities or hidden feelings. Featuring five dancers, Alisa Carerras, Emily Krenik, Sidney Scully, Mizuki Sako, and Nicholas Sipes – the piece reveals an underlying message about performativity and insecurity as the dancers begin to interact and react to each other more and more, some with disgust others with mockery.

The Mythology of Self, Photo Skye Schmidt, Choreography Laurie Sefton, SGLA, September 10, 2022, dancers Alica Carerras, Emily Krenik, Sidney Scully, Nicholas Sipes, Mizuki Sako.

The second piece, entitled Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, features three dancers, Maddie Lacambra, Sidney Scully, and Mizuki Sako. The piece begins with the trio slowly traveling across stage while counterbalancing and supporting one another. Holding poised shapes, in forced-arch, they seamlessly traveled through space interrupted from time to time by one of the dancers trying to break away, but being held back by the others. The dancers move in and out of duets, solos, and their trio relationship performing movement that is complex, intense, and unforgiving. One of the dancers, Sidney Scully, performs a demanding floorwork heavy solo, followed by two lift sequences, one of which involves her simultaneously lifting the other two dancers and to suspend them midair. Through the interweaving of dancers, the audience observes the different aspects of a woman, including moments of sensuality, playfulness, and seriousness. Slow, pressing solos contrast dynamic and rhythmic duets, as the leotard-based costumes (designed by Marissa Mann with Laurie Sefton) progressively molt little pieces of paper or cloth with each movement, peppering the dance floor with bits of themselves.

The Mythology of Self, Photo by Skye Schmidt, Laurie Sefton Choreographer, September 17, 2022, Dancers Emily Krenik and Nicholas Sipes.

Thought-provoking in premise and imagery, these works are an emotional mirror of the experience of contemporary humans. Sefton explores identity through symbolic imagery, relationships with others, and perception of self, while employing new ways of telling stories through a combination of digital media and the performing arts. At the same time, the dancers show impressive athleticism, strength, and mastery of their bodies through their execution of the movement. The choreography is incredibly complex in both works, with intricate details, challenging rhythms, and fast-paced athleticism. Together with the designs of the collaborating artist, the evening weaves a tapestry of artistic impressions. The multiple stories of the characters occurring simultaneously beg for multiple viewings.

Overall, this immersive show was a complete success. During the brief Q&A moderated by Kate Hutter, the audience expressed a great deal of curiosity and satisfaction with the creative concept of using multimedia to recreate the atmosphere of social media on stage. This visionary show is sure to please audience members interested in seeing creative conceptualization mixed with complex choreographic ideas and excellence on behalf of the dancing cast. 

Review by guest writing team Morpheus Kostromin and Gabe Valentine.

Edited by Beth Megill

Categories: Uncategorized

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