Archive for April, 2008

Some of the most interesting things I’ve seen lately have been in studios.  No offense to the big venues, but I’m finding lately that the intimacy and rawness of a studio showing can pack more punch than a lot of “fully realized” productions.  Perhaps it has less to do with the space and more to do with the artists, but I think there’s something to this studio thing.  It creates a different set of expectations for the audience, and encourages a greater appetite for risk (both for the audience and the artists.)  In short, it’s fun.

On Thursday, I saw a work-in-progress of Ursula Eagley’s Smearcase as part of Dance Theater Workshop’s Studio Series. Ursula’s work is consistently some of my favorite performance to watch – quirky, with a bizarre, dark logic that is mysterious and intriguing.  Plus, the girl moves like no other human on the planet: her joints present no obstacle, giving her an awkward, double-jointed grace that is fascinating.   Her solo work, which anchors Smearcase, is punctuated by a couple of moments where she stands still and looks at the audience, really seeing us in a simple, human action.   When this utterly open, slightly amused gaze was followed by a sudden drop into near-contortionist movement, it was shocking.  When later, the gaze replaced the movement, it was hilarious. 

This see-saw between shock and humor was maximized further in a quartet swarming around Eagley’s solo.  Abby Harris, Jeremy Holmes, Dean DeChiaro, and Keith Malone  went on a round-robin, mimed killing spree, pulling out every possible death scenario from spear stabs to shark attacks, offing each other again and again.  With attackers and victims constantly shifting, no alliance was permanent, and none were safe.  Extra creepy was the low hum that passed from attacker to attacker, shifting voices, but continuously underscoring the murderous loop.  Oddly, most of this section was completely hysterical, and even with blood dripping from their mouths, Harris and Holmes in particular seemed so sweet that we just weren’t sure what to think.   Eagley is a master at creating this kind of confusion in the audience: we’re not sure how to respond, but not because she’s not sure what she’s telling us.

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