Majesty as viewed by Garrett Moulton Productions

28 Oct

Luminous Edge is the latest collaboration of Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton; it was premiered September 18-21, 2014 at Lam Research Theater in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Complex on Mission Street at Third Street, San Francisco. It should be repeated for serious souls everywhere.

It’s not very often I find myself thinking or uttering the word “Majestic,” but that was my take on the performance shared with Rita Felciano as we left the seventy some minute work. It included songs by Gustav Mahler sung in lushly loving tones by contralto Karen Clark standing upstage left beside seven other musicians.

Why majestic? That implies something special, transcendent. What was it about this clearly contemporary work penetrating that difficult hierarchy of values? Part of the impression rose from the formations – Two lines comprising twenty dancers faced each other from back to front stage center at the beginning; even from orchestra left, the formality registered, reinforced when the three principal couples moved from stage back forward and later danced together with collective movements interspersed.

Moulton, noted for his choir of dancers, stair-stepped, and manipulating objects in fascinating and progressively complicated patterns, here assigned more interaction with the principal dancers. The choir had their moments, then a black out, and a pas de deux, but there were places, as the work intensified, where the principals reached out to them, or a member of dancing choir stepped out of the formation and inter-acted. The feeling of the individual and the collective relating became strong, as well as tender and evocative. The interspered Mahler songs in the haunting tones of Karen Clark’s contralto, not always clear in the sound system, intensified the impression of witnessing something almost baroque in contemporary life.

My impression, a plain if awesome reaction, was like seeing the Golden Eye of God in the Protestant Church in East Berlin just before the 1990 German reunification. This symbol was carefully protected from the pulverizing Allied bombings during the final days of the European conflict in World War II, an emblem of faith, a surviving icon in the face of horrendous outer chastisement.

With the couples vanishing between the lines of the movement choir at the end, the work visually summarized the lines “The captains and the kings depart; still stands thy ancient sacrifice, a humble and a contrite heart.” You have to admit that’s strong stuff.

The principal dancers were Vivian Aragon, Carolina Czechowska, Dudley Flores, Michael Galloway, Tegan Schwabe, Nol Simonse.

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