A little story for , you:
The night before I went to watch a rehearsal for the upcoming Sketch/ Nine show I had a terrible low blood sugar at about two a.m. Luckily, the week prior was my you-know-what’s birthday and I had attempted to bake him a pie which except for one tiny missing sliver, was whole and intact and still on his kitchen table during my low bs. At two in the morning, I stumbled into the kitchen, peeled off the aluminum foil, thought, ‘oh sweet! An almost-whole cherry pie, just for me!’ and began shoveling the thing into my face. When you-know-who walked in on my intimate pie moment, he looked a kittle disgusted and asked, ‘should you be eating that?’ My brain tends to be fuzzy at two am mid low blood sugar and I thought this was some kind of dancers-don’t-eat kind of comment so my retort was a heart, ‘I will eat what I want!’ And then he pointed out the fuzzy blueish mold patches on week-old pie that had somehow slipped my notice. What can you do?
Anyways, I’m here to write a preview and not tell stories, right? Back to dance. Just thought you should know.
I was invited to preview Sketch- a series of duets in a physical theater meets dance world choreographed by Hannah Fischer of Leverage Dance Theater. The dance aspect is then followed by the Jane Shepard one-act, ‘Nine’ from Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble– the story of two women held in a life-threatening situation playing mind games to keep one another alive. Separate and unable to see each other, the chained hostages can only share words.
The show is held in the Chapel – a sanctuary for the arts– which I found only because I was lost and figured that if I wandered into a church, someone would surely help me. The space is small and intimate yet the ceilings are high and embellished with colored stain-glass windows. There is a strange connection to the feeling of divinity right along with an almost uncomfortable ‘in-your-face’ quality with the dancers as the audience is seated on the actual dance floor. In that proximity, it is unavoidable to not form a kinship or relationship of sorts with the two dancers.
There’s that word again- relationship. Whenever I meet a choreographer and they introduce their work as a study in ‘relationships’ I usually find a highly conceptual piece that involves a lot of floor patterns and weight sharing and shift of focus and not a lot of great dancing, as if to say that the exploration of something ‘real’ means that dance technique goes out the window in favor of humanity. Excuse me while I gag a little…though it may be the mold I ate talking.
Speaking of words and proximity, let’s think about ‘relationship’ and it’s neighbor ‘relate’ for a second- the latter meaning in one sense to narrate, or give an account. This is something that is so glorious about dance, about all body language really, the ability to do just that without language, the most conventional means of communication. At least, if you aren’t confusing a health alert for an insult to your waistline.
It is interesting to have Sketch first, Nine second because we are getting the picture first, the context second. Also, the dance was created after reading the play says Fischer. She says she wanted each piece of art to stand alone, for the dancing to perhaps offer a counterpoint to the text. If you’ve ever read books to children, you’ve heard, ‘show us the picture!’ We all want the images- it helps to form a grounded reality and is a kind of cheat in telling us what to think.It’s kind of fun and challenging to have it in reverse, the picture and then the story.
This is one reason that I really enjoyed Sketch. It is all of those things that I mentioned; conceptual and spatially consious but is done in a way that creates a progression of time through smart lighting, shifts of focus and level, and there it is- the relationship between the two dancers. And in this case, I do mean dancers. This is movement that serves a narrative purpose but is still executed by Fischer and fellow dancer, Elodie Andrews,with fluidity, precision, and grace. There were some nice interchanges of weight and support, fascinating use of manipulation and repeated phrase, and the use of level change created a dynamic suggestion of power play. There were a few moments of disconnect in timing and in details such as the amount of contraction in the spine but it’s hard to tell when such differences are choices and clues to the context. I will just have to wait and see how it compliments or contrasts the play.
There are moments within the dance where text is used; phrases, questions, commands that stick out because the element of speech is for the most part, as stripped away from the movement as movement is likely to be for the chained actresses, using mostly words. Just as curious as I am to further dissect those chosen phrases heard in Sketch, I am curious so watch the slivers of body language in Nine. It will be interesting to hear and see the full story, the separate entities, and how they relate to each other.
Tomorrow is opening night! Shows run Wednesdays through Saturdays (August 21- 31) held at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive. (It’s not really that hard to find, I blame mold tummy for affecting my navigational prowess)
Tickets can be purchased at SlightlyOff.org. There are twelve shows but only eighteen seats per show, so be sure to get yours in advance! Hope to see you there, before the story ends.