Dallas — No one knew exactly what to expect as we gathered for the performance of Apollo’s Flight on Feb. 5 at the Latino Cultural Center. The description on the promotional materials was lengthy and furnished quite a list of collaborators and descriptors. It was called an “experiential, collaborative, multimedia performance work” with a list of participants including composers, dancers and singers, with live electronic music as well as specifically designed projections and costumes. There was also a really tripped-out photo.
What actually happened was everything that was promised—and then some. Apollo’s Flight was a mind-bending experience, performed by a creative group of young, outstanding musicians and dancers. Both the projections and costumes (as well as the makeup) matched the promise of the photo. They reminded of a psychedelic science fiction film, as did the musical instruments used. Actually, the entire event was more reminiscent of the famous bar scene in Star Wars than any concert in memory.
There was a narrative that held it all together. Sixteen scenes were listed in the program but the theater was too dark to be able to follow along. This, by the way, is a common problem, especially when translations of lyrics are in the program. Here, the reason for the dark theater might have been to make the projections more vivid—and they certainly were.
While being able to follow the progression of the scenes it probably would have added something to the performance, it didn’t hinder the enjoyment of what went on. Maybe “enjoyment” isn’t the correct word. “Fascinated” is a good one. “Challenged” is another. Even “Bewildered” would fit, as we tried to figure out what the bizarre-looking electronic instruments were. They were combined with more familiar ones, which were amplified, of course.
The music was performed live against a pre-recorded electronica music track. About 75 percent of what was played live was composed and written down, and the other 25 percent was aleatoric (improvised). There was even some interpolated familiar music by other composers. An example of that was an amazing performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, played at a jaw-dropping speed, tossed off by clarinetist Jonathan Jones while skating around the stage on rollerblades…(!)
The composers were also the performers. Marek Eneti was Apollo. He also was the key composer and musical director. He played on a regular violin as well as an electronic version of the instrument. The aforementioned Jones also played on an electronic wind instrument that could sound like anything. Radu Cernat also played the violin and some other neon-enhanced instruments. He added some of the vocals. An exotic Francine Thirteen gave a stunning performance as Daphne.
Edward Ruiz offered some magnificently strange and wonderful projections that served as scenery that was assisted by Ryan Flores’ wonderful lighting design. The final projected scene was exceptional, as we saw Apollo’s flapping wings behind him, taking him on his flight. Jesse Thaxton created some appropriately outlandish costume designs, enhanced with Carolyn Logan’s fantastical take on a unified concept, combining makeup and hair.
Choreographer Valerie Shelton Tabor mixed classical ballet and modern dance into something different than either of them. She was blessed with some outstanding dancers from Contemporary Ballet Dallas.
As with the performance of music, some of the movement was left to the imagination of the dancers, within a defined set of movements in a time period, while other sections were precisely choreographed. As already mentioned but bears repeating, the dancers—Lea Zablocki, Erin Boone, Felicia McPhee, Whitney Hart, Paula Ulery-Reynolds and Addison Holmes—were excellent, displaying some first class ballet technical mastery and amazing extensions.
Apollo’s Fight was a terrific experiment, combining many artistic endeavors to make something completely new. Surely, a second viewing, or even a third, would reveal many more details. Much was missed in a single viewing of such a complex piece. Many of us who were in attendance would welcome the opportunity to see it again—and the sequel.