Dallas — “This is going to be so much fun,” cheeps a young woman in dowdy prairie dress, as she escorts me into the bowels of the Bath House Cultural Center.
Depending on your idea of “fun,” Danielle Georgiou Dance Group’s newest venture into the out-in-left-field War Flower had its comic moments. But it was also quite disconcerting, even bleak.
The title refers to someone who “goes into battle and comes out unharmed.” Did this actually happen in the Bath House? It seemed to me it ended with a lot of dead bodies lying around the stage.
But I get ahead of myself. The show’s inspiration was bees, their similarities with human beings, their love for order, repetition and democratic principles. While the audience saunters in, Justin Locklear mills around the stage looking frazzled, megaphone at the ready. White plastic chairs litter the room and the “worker bees,” their faces chalk white and dressed alike in long peasant dresses, heads sporting little antennae, display the same, silly grin as the woman who escorted me in.
There is not a great deal of action, but a lot of dialogue, peppered with short bursts of dance and movement. Georgiou and Locklear wrote the script and Georgiou also choreographed, and co-created the video design with Kyle Kondas.
“The bees came in the summer.”
“I came in the summer.”
“I never had a chance to say goodbye.”
“This is your reality.”
“There is no king, only a queen.”
They talk over each other.
A dancer wheels in on an old-fashioned high-wheel bike, outfitted in dark red corset. (The Queen bee?) There is a flurry of activity, frenzied at times, stamping about, pumping arms and bobbing heads. At the far end of the stage, Donovan Jones, wearing a beekeeper’s protective gear with lights, stays busy on his keyboard, producing buzzes, squeaks, white noise and wind and water sound.
In one long episode, in interrogator questions another about his views on life. “When you vote, do you support Planned Parenthood? Do you accept refugees? Do you do gymnastics? Do you agree with the minimum wage?” The grilling goes on for a very long time, and repeats.
Occasionally, a cute little mechanical drone (clever tie-in with the idea of a beehive), operated by Locklear, buzzes around like a children’s toy, but it is unnerving too. The “bees” rearrange chairs, stack them high, climb on top. They exchange their heavy dresses for dark, small, fitted outfits with sparkly vests. They break out into wild and jolly dance. Near the end, cups of some mysterious drink are handed out. Is this a reference to the Jonestown massacre? Pesticide? They drink. And except for a few people sitting in a dazed, comatose state, all the rest lie spread out on the ground.
A flat, plain drone whirls over the group only to be knocked down. All is silence.
Does all this sound murky? With so many words, so many ideas, so many images, I wished I could have made more sense of it.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.