Tiny Pistol at West Wave Dance Festival August 27

17 Sep

After twenty-two years, West Wave Festival seems to have ended its late summer quest to present, commission and advocate for new dances, most of them modern.  Joan Lazarus, who has produced them, arranged funding and set programs, presided over this one-night performance featuring Maurya Kerr’s Tiny Pistol. Lazarus acknowledged  those who contributed the range of efforts required to execute this or any festival.  If there is an actual demise, and not a twenty-third festival blame it on the economy.

Having seen Likha’s celebration of its twenty years of performance and the sweeping summary of the Philippines’ 6000 island culture in dance form the afternoon before, Tiny Pistol separated itself not only by the Pacific Ocean, but by a diametrically different dance approach, the cultural collective in stark contrast to individual angst in fluctuating contemporary post-industrial western life.  Outside of hunting and gathering cultures, nothing could differ more in movement form.  The difference appears, essentially, in function versus individualized psychic flagellation.

If you ever saw Maurya Kerr when she was one of Alonzo King’s Ballet artist, you know how splendidly elegant she was; the overuse  use of adjectives helps to describe the narrow-boned body with its shape, the small head, the intense presence – Dovima in evening dress with the Elephant is a fair analogy.  You simply knew she would be distinctive in whatever she undertook.

I, with others, never expected her to explore the dysfunctional side of the psyche, our youth or our culture; it’s not a pretty subject, but an reality unavoidable using public transportation – tatoos, mussed hair, trousers perilously low on the hips, tee-shirts with raunchy messages, multi-tints on dreadlocks, multiple piercings – ears, lip, nostril, eyebrow, the tongue.  Each of such choices conveys something about the personality, the age group, the habits, the mind set, any collective pressure. Kerr explores the psyche in motion behind such facades in her three works: Buck, Sick with Joy, Freak Show a premiere.

David H. K. Elliott and Glynnis Slater supplied lighting design and costumes. The dancers were  Christopher De Vita, Robyn Gerbaz, Babatunji Johnson, Nick Korkos, Emilie Leriche, Casie O’Kane, Grace Luise Stern, Kimberly White, Megan Wright, all possessing technique to spare and most with some or extensive exposure to the world of Lines Ballet and its program with Dominican University.  Erika Cahill mixed the music, drawn from five to thirteen sources, for the three works.

What fascinated me most about the three works was Kerr’s strong sense of structure behind the seeming chaos of stage patterns, the mind-boggling angles and thrusts of individual bodies  in  isolated pools of moving; suddenly arms raise briefly in classical positions,  symmetry of floor pattern unites the ensemble, entrances and exits reflect a clear classical foundation. Culture, perhaps the conventional form, remains underneath in Buck.  This symmetry also occurred in Freak Show, dancers aligned in a physical pyramid with its base upstage center, a welcome relief to the vast vocabulary of disjointed, perhaps drug promoted gestures and leg thrusts.

I could not begin to enumerate the variety of  quirky movements; I just remember they managed to be slightly different in each work, reflecting a prodigious command of the unfortunate anomalous message in the works, underscored by the complex, intrusive quality of the sound mix.

Clearly, with the thunderous audience response, I recognize the talent exhibited in the program.  The works touched recognizable areas of experience and emotion.  As a senior citizen, I just wished Kerr’s choreography did not reflect those troubling areas quite so keenly.

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