Metacontext MFA concert

Mar 27th, 2015 | By | Category: Events, Sights

By John Sanford Friedrich

As counterintuitive as it sounds, on certain occasions it makes solid fashion sense to clash. The Dance Department offered two MFA theses which were as different as night and day but combined to make an emotionally satisfying evening.

Raina Cephas led off the evening on a comparatively traditional note. movement I was a solo performance by Danielle Kinne. It took a few minutes to quite realize that this was a solo work, as a bank of mirrors reflected the performer, duplicating her motions as she tested the limits of her circumference – a pile of golden petals inside a spotlight. The quietness of this piece lured the mind into a hypnotic state, at least for those of us in proper seats rather than arrayed at point blank along either side of the stage.

’’Close your eyes. Open them. Listen, and see.’’ Such is good advice to help a dancegoer stay emotionally in the experience and were also admonishments from Cephas’ recorded spoken word track in movement II though these vocal tracks appeared in each piece. This second work began dramatically with a live violist and three dancers moving unsteadily. The style was a bit jerky and rough as spotlights careened across the stage, sometimes highlighting a performer or catching a portion of the stage still littered with scraps of the earlier golden confetti.

movement III offered another vocal track about sisterhood. A single dancer, Kanica North, began examining a clear large tupperware filled with water placed at the edge of the stage. She examined the water not as a tupperware container but with a sort of awe, like the semi-sentience of an early species of human might. A ritualistic washing began, adding the import of a ’lustral basin’ as a second dancer, Madeline Braxton, appeared. The two then acted out the complex relationship of siblings, with a memorable peak when a mock-drowning in the basin was committed, the victim throwing back her head to spray a slashing line of water from her soaked mane of hair.

A large industrial fan, the type that might be remembered from a middle school gym class held in early June combined with Binh Duong to make a solo that at times was so still it felt more like a performance art installation in a museum, relying on the fan to capture the long threads of Duong’s dress for movement.

Intermission used to be timed for just enough to allow an audience member to pop out for a smoke or stand in line for the bathroom but seldom both. In Metacontext the period between acts was turned into an exercise in changing the general mood of the evening, which had been dark and gentle under Cephas.

Stephany Rayburn’s ’context’ began in intermission when the audience was asked to leave the dance theater and follow one of the dancers who was exuberantly cheerful, wearing a birthday hat and handing out hardcandy as he led them through the elaborate maze of an older building.

Upon returning to our seats the audience was hopefully more and awake and alert thanks to the experience. A number of vignettes were offered that slowly built upon one another to reveal that these were practice sessions displaying the work that goes into offering a performance. Characters came and left the stage frequently and the highpoint may have been a quippy interaction between a male and female performer, the latter of whom left to go find the water fountain and eventually returned exasperated at the complicated layout of the building, as the audience had just seen during intermission, an example of ’situationalism’ in art.

The male part of that duo was in search for his necktie misplaced before the show due to sexual bondage play. The careful reader may have noticed that talking was being done, a deviation from the standard premise of modern dance that was pointed out by a cast member in the audience who screamed that ’’There’s no talking in dance!!!’’

The use of dialogue is not forbidden in dance but does blur the lines with traditional theatre. Fortunately the writing was witty and felt like your money’s worth of an old vaudeville act and the audience certainly found opportunities to laugh aloud. The American Dance Festival, for one, tries to place hip, sexy genre blurring in venues like Motorco, a Durham bar. ‘context’ would find an easy home in a room full of younger people drinking beer and looking for a fun experience while Cephas’ works suited the taste of those wanting to simply observe a performance.

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