Addison — The oft-repeated real estate motto “location, location, location” can easily apply to theatrical performances as well, especially when it comes to the orientation and structure of a performance venue. What happens when a show is set in the round, then moves to a proscenium-style setting?
A multitude of possibilities exist, especially for Muscle Memory Dance Theatre as they once again share (K)new Order: A Dance-o-rama Movement Scene, this time for the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival. The last time they performed this show was at LIFE in Deep Ellum, where they displayed the work to floor seating on two sides and raised stage seating on a third. For Loop, it’s back to the proscenium.
Did the switch work? Let’s recap program first.
(K)new Order combines the creative talents of Kiera Amison, Kristin Daniels, Lindsey Knight, Megan Odom, Jackie Beth Shilcutt, and artistic director Lesley Snelson, to create a 40-minute work set entirely to the music of the influential British new wave/electronic innovators New Order.
In “Ceremony,” Anna Wueller Diaz opens the performance with a nicely controlled and articulated solo. Movement begins calmly, then gradually increases in speed and complexity to match the quality of the music. More performers enter as the song shifts, and the dance continues nonstop for several more minutes. Precise gestures, familiar modern dance lifts, inverted choreography, and slicing and spoking arm movements permeate most of the evening’s choreography. Because of the number of co-creators, however, movement patterns and combinations display a decent bit of variety.
The pace slows down with “Rebalance” and “In a Lonely Place.” Shilcutt and Elaine Hernandez demonstrate dynamic strength and control in the former as they slowly maneuver into balances atop low stepstools. It illustrates an important point; sometimes the best thing about a stunt is the transition, rather than the finished picture.
The energy picks back up with “Shell Shock” and “The Confusion”, with the latter bringing back the stepstools. A gorgeously poignant duet between Baldo Paramo and Ada Palacios remains the best segment of the show, and a faster, jazzy segment with more literal choreography closes out the performance.
The greatest weakness of the November performance is the show’s biggest improvement, that of precision. The dancers appear more comfortable with the movement and fulfill the choreography to a much greater extent. The quality, however, still needs work, especially among the newer company members. At times, those dancers look like they’re just hitting positions, but the richness that they lack will come with more experience.
So, what about the change in venue? It’s a mixed bag. The intimacy of LIFE doesn’t always allow one to see the full picture, even seated on the stage. With the audience seated further away from the action in the slightly larger setting of the Main Stage at WaterTower, the movement has a tendency to look cleaner and less jumbled. Also, split parts with multiple level changes, such as those in “The Confusion” create a much more aesthetically pleasing picture when seen from afar. Some parts, however, work better with the circular stage, namely “Ceremony” and “In a Lonely Place.”
Another downside to the proscenium is that despite of the wealth of choreographic variety, the unchanging focus of the dancers towards one area of seating grows repetitious, almost to the point where it dampens the excitement of the work. With audience members on all side at LIFE, the dancers were constantly changing their orientations, so that each patron got a new perspective on the movement.
All that aside, the work as a whole didn’t grow and refine as much as expected. Performances and execution greatly improved and it has some excellent moments, but overall the piece still seems too frantic and too much on the messy side to be truly satisfying. Kudos to them for trying something different than what we’re used to seeing, but it’s not their best.
» (K)New Order has completed its run at Out of the Loop
» WaterTower Theatre's 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival is 10 days of live theater, dance, music and visual art. To see the full schedule, go here.