Monday, May 16
Friday, May 13
This weekend I attended Lingo’s world premiere of Relatively Real. I am very happy to finally see one of their full-length pieces in its entirety as I have heard so much about their work from so many people. I was really happy to see a full house and hope that they were as successful in attendance all of the other nights. (Lingo is a dance and theater company that needs to be seen!) And not just in Seattle. I hope that as many and more people come to see performances from out of town artists, as this is a critically vital element for any artist and art community. Basically I can’t believe that John Jasperse and other out of town artists didn’t sell out every night, but that’s a whole other subject….
Okay: First, the title. I found the title very intriguing and was eager to see how they would approach both physically and visually the idea of reality in identity. Except for a the men posturing masculinity in shoulder pads, women flaunting and teasing in go-go boots and Bianca’s (too) brief solo speaking about her piercing I didn’t get much of a feeling of their exploration of reality and identity. I am not dismissing the piece in this comment only mentioning it because it threw me off and colored how I came into watching the piece. (It might be my tendency to cling to titles as guides to work. I haven’t decided if this is helpful or a hindrance in both mine and other’s work.)
Walking into the theater was great. I loved the set and never grew tired or used to/bored by it for the entirety of the piece. The panels had a life of their own and became as integral to the piece as the dancers, music and costumes. KT did an excellent job in her use of the panels to separate, revel, disclose, and draw the audience into the piece. Unfortunately a few times there was so much going on in the space that by their sheer size the panel’s movement took attention away from the dancers and their interactions.
The dancers in Lingo are diverse, talented, well rehearsed and delightfully individual in their interpretation of the movement and in what they bring to the work. I really enjoyed seeing the intense physical dancing and movement that flowed seamlessly from one thing to the next. No dancer labored over or made the intense duets and choreography “tricky” or “showy”. I never felt like I was being set up by them to watch a bunch of difficult movement that I could guess was going to happen. Does that make sense? I don’t want to watch a bunch of laborious or gratuitous preparation; I just want to watch the movement.
At times there was so much going on in the space that I felt like I had to choose between watching several different interactions. Perhaps concentrating the ideas, movement and visuals through editing the amount of stuff happening on stage at once will help this. It was clear that the dancers had a clear intention, direction and desired outcome. This didn’t really come through in the overall piece though. But I think that everyone’s desired intentions will solidify and become more apparent to the viewer as they work stuff out, perform and become more at home with the piece. At least that has always been my experience as a performer.
I really enjoyed the revealing and intriguingly personal solos. I want more- more of the solos and more depth and time in each of them. I was shocked by the bizarrely revealing nature of Aiko’s, Bianca’s and KT’s solo. It was too short for me to find a foot hold in and not short enough to be left as is.
All and all, good work. I know they worked incredibly hard and that dedication, tenacity and hard work show. I wish them continued success in all of their future performances.
Tonight i was in attendance at the premiere of Relatively Real at On the Boards. A work commissioned for Lingo in part by On the Boards.
The visual aspects were quite compelling and the physical movement was complex and at times surprising.
The set was a completely open stage. All the walls of the theater were exposed all the lights were visible the the space seemed almost to open up to an infinite. My body and mind seemed to feel so far away from what was really actually very close to me. There were large white panels (actually calling them panels is unfair since there were three dimensional curved rectangles but you really have to see them to appreciate their dynamic quality) that moved and defined the open space of the theater. I just have to say the way they moved across the stage was absolutely amazing. With no real sound, and a flowing sensuality, the set pieces glided across the stage with a delicate elegance.
This set gave both the lighting designer and video designer many dimensions to play with their separate projections. The lighting designer used the bodies of the dancers as projections and the video designer used the projectors to add more dimension and the occasional color to the show. The whole show was remarkably shadow and light (or black and white, except the costumes). i know this is only a perception i had but when i look back on it i really only see light and dark. Not much color?
i really enjoyed the set up of the space after the first big set move.
The panels were on end to the audience defining each individual dancers dressing area and space. the dancers then altered that by moving in and out of the viewable spaces. This scene with the vertical uprights and empty space really made for a nice beginning. My next favorite moment was when the panels came and defined the space again by giving the space some solid walls at the edge of the space leaving two dancers to occupy their own half of the stage in a separated duet of strong physical movement that found itself both flying and falling in the same moment.
For the overall feeling of the evening the movement and sound made me feel like i was constantly breathing in holding my breath (pausing)
then letting it out. There seem to be a lot of preparation for
something. The something, at times, was intricate body flying movement and at other times was just a release of the breath in preparation for another breath and then other times it was something that was physically complicated, visually cluttered.
The vocal aspects of the show ranged from amazingly interesting (opening sequence) to aggravating (telling me what what was happening was boring). For me the most interesting ensemble movement happened after i was told that everything else that could possibly happen was going to be boring. After that the visual aspects the space became engaging and the movement had a dynamic clarity.
i was engaged by the visual manipulations of the space and enjoyed thinking about my perceptions of the dynamics of spatial manipulation.
The press materials for this piece (that I also helped to create) were provoking – who do you think you are?; tackling alter-ego and androgyny; identity and reality questioned. It made me nervous about seeing this piece. I could see immediately that there were a lot of elements going into it. First there are the big themes of identity and reality to address, but then there is also an original score, costumes, set design, animation, voice/text. It seems that as of late artists are trying to make their work extremely multi-media and rarely do I see it done well. Expectations seemed to be running high for this piece with previews in The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and The Stranger. That said, I was intrigued, concerned and curious to how this would all turn out.
I wasn’t in love with everything I saw. Maybe because I am a dancer I enjoyed much more the pure dance sequences; when there wasn’t words or overt costumes to hinder me from seeing the relationships and nuances being built on stage. The company is built from a really strong group of dancers whom you can tell have been working hard and with eachother to fine tune their performance. I appreciated being able to see them work as a group, in quartets, trios, duos and solos much more than watching them try to tell me something or make me laugh. Although I do think those parts did make the dancing stronger as it was a way to compare the two elements and provide a vehicle for the audience to use to help them better gauge the depth, “reality” and honesty being performed. So, perhaps it was essential, albeit not always my favorite.
It seems like the subtleties in the piece far outshined the bigger, more provocative elements. The animation surprised me, I wasn’t sure about the idea of using animation with dance but, it worked for me. It had such a specific style and quality the it felt like a separate voice in the piece commenting and supporting the dancers. It aided the viewer rather than distract which was what initially worrisome to me.
Other subtleties. The pure craft of it. I think KT did an amazing job especially with the ending. The movement phrase were manipulated, repeated and used spacially very successfully. It made me remember how much of a craft choreography can be and how much stronger it makes the performance when it is done well. I think choreographers can get too wrapped up in either finding “cool” movements/partnering or emotional states for the performers to reach. The structure of the choreography gave the performers room to grow individually and as a group allowing them to find the emotionality of the piece much more naturally. In between structure and improv there lied a place where they were always a group and always individuals. It was lovely to see. I think the set and it’s mobility also aided the choreography throughout the entire piece making it that much stronger in changing the viewers perspective and shifting qualities of the performance pretty smoothly.
I wouldn’t say the piece met the press materials expectations, but I’m glad they didn’t. High expectations often let us down, rarely are met and aren’t really “real”.
Thursday, May 12
A Lot to Chew On
by Bret Fetzer
Wow, this whole blogging thing, how do you get started?
When faced with something like Relatively Real, I have no idea.
What do you mean?
It’s the just the sheer everything-but-the-kitchen-sink abundance of the thing. KT Niehoff seems to have taken every idea currently running through her head and crammed them into this piece.
You didn’t like it?
On the contrary, I liked it a lot. Even the sections I didn’t connect with that much---like the section I’m going to refer to as the “cheerleader & shoulder pads sequence”---were enjoyable for their bullish energy and willfulness, as well as the complexity of grappling with what it was or wasn’t saying.
Whatever. What did you like?
It opens with a comic theatrical bit with Scott Davis and Aiko Kinoshita, which was a little self-conscious but amusing. Then Aiko spun off into this brief solo section---all I really remember was her stretching out her arm as if offering the inside of her elbow to the audience---that completely drew me in. Aiko had a palpable individual presence; she wasn’t simply a dancer executing a choreographer’s will, she had her own relationship to what she was doing (more like the relationship to the material that one associates with an actor in a play) and that was as important as the movement itself.
Huh. Was she the star?
Over the course of the piece, pretty much all the dancers---Scott, Bianca Cabrera, Dustin Haug, Aaron Swartzman, and Janine Tiede---all had standout moments. As did KT herself, of course, but one expects as much from the person who conceives the movement. Though in the program KT is credited with “Inception and Direction” while the company is credited with “Creation and Performance”, so presumably the choreographer/dancer relationship wasn’t the traditionally hierarchical one.
What was this cheerleader/shoulder pad thing you mentioned?
After a really gorgeous section of all kinds of movement---the kind of vigorous, athletic dance that Lingo is noted for---suddenly the piece sort of turned into a Calvin Klein ad as the dancers started taking off their shirts and pants while walking in front of these rolling squeezed parallelograms that the animation had been projected on.
Wait, what animation? What parallelograms?
Part of the abundance I mentioned earlier---very charming squiggly animation is projected onto these rolling screens or just over the stage at various points.
So, they were undressing...
And the men put on these black shirts with football-like shoulder pads under them, while the women dressed in pink or blue go-go boots and put these gaping, grinning cartoon mouths over their own mouths. They then acted out exaggerated, high-school gender roles, with the four women laughing in a clique and the men wrestling or jockeying with each other competitively---this section left me...not exactly cold, but I didn’t really know what it was about, and it seemed to be about something.
Like it was meant to be some kind of commentary, but both the subject of its critique and the critique itself were elusive.
Exactly. Yet it wasn’t clumsy or awkward or uninteresting; it just seemed obvious, and at the same time I couldn’t say what was obvious about it. Then Bianca went into this slurping business...or maybe that was after KT’s solo where she was talking with some interrogator who sent her to her bedroom...but it was definitely before the parallelograms were reconfigured into what, for some reason, made me think of a tennis court, with Janine and Aaron doing solos on the two sides of the stage. This was one of the points where my mind just had to wander because it had been given so much to chew on.
Is that a bad thing?
Not at all. One of the best things about Relatively Real is that I didn’t take any notes because I didn’t want to look away; I had no idea what would happen next and I didn’t want to miss it. But my brain got full at various points and I had to let it unfocus briefly.
Well, we’re taking up a lot of space here, and there are a half-dozen other things we could talk about. I have no idea how all of this coheres for KT or the company; by the end, I didn’t feel like I’d had a very focused experience, but I’d had a rich and wide-ranging one that was, in many ways, more satisfying and enjoyable than a precise, clean, everything-fits work of art. I wish it were running another weekend so I could see it again; I suspect I’d appreciate very different things the second time around. But I’d especially like to see Janine do this amazing bit where she goes up into a handstand from a sitting position---it was just uncanny.
Nothing Here Yet
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Who better to write about what happens at On the Boards than the people who support and attend our performances? Making art is part of a dialogue between artist and audience, and so we've created Blog the Boards...
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Thanks to our bloggers for Relatively Real: Randi Courtmanch, Bret Fetzer, Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey.
About KT Niehoff's Lingo Dancetheater
About Lingo dancetheater and choreographer KT Niehoff
About Relatively Real
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