Dallas — The 2017-2018 TITAS season so far has been quite contemporary (based on the typical usages of the word in the dance community). MOMIX, Ballet Hispanico, Kibbutz, Malpaso, and Hervé Koubi have all delivered remarkable performances, and while each one displayed a unique style, they contain enough commonalities to make the first part of the season feel somewhat cohesive.
At least compared to Lucky Plush Productions, an odd name but one that gives a hint as to what audiences might see on stage. Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip—a multimedia, interdisciplinary performance—includes elements seen in dance concerts before, such as projections, interactive media, video feeds, text, composed score, and of course, a movement vocabulary.
Lucky Plush, however, (led by artistic director Julia Rhoads) combines those aspects more skillfully and creatively than any other company North Texas has seen. Their Dallas debut at Moody Performance Hall creates a unique atmosphere that provides a welcomed accessibility and lightheartedness, yet layers it with thoughtful commentary and intricate movement. The end result is an experience that’s humorous and delightful on the surface, but supplies plenty of moments for reflection and snippets to keep one thinking long after the curtain closes.
The evening follows seven “has-beens,” lesser-known superheroes that have fallen out of public interest. Their process to form a nonprofit think tank and discover their mission statement results in session after session of debate, discussion, conflict, and eventually, camaraderie. Documenting all of this is their hired media consultant, performed by Sojourner Zenobia.
Eight mesh panels form a blank comic strip onto which images and text are projected. The sessions consist of an invocation (which includes movements and random words that grow more cohesive each time they meet) and a focus on the mission statement which invariable veers into tangent territory. Mixed in are “training simulations,” where the media consultant projects a virtual reality-type environment where they must navigate obstacles and work as a team to unlock a new step in their collaborative process.
Almost the entire script consists of oft-used and over-used jargon from corporate meetings, social justice warrior Twitter accounts, and liberal arts academia. Therein lies the humor—when the phrases smash together in such an eccentric context, one has to contemplate their meanings and why they’re used in the first place. Other poignant considerations include the struggle of increasing technology, what privilege exactly means, and how they overcome those and other conflicts to achieve their goal.
Throughout the show, each character has a chance to introduce themselves and reveal what their superpower is, which inevitably leads into a discussion around hierarchy of powers. Each superhero dons a few specific costume pieces, and their overall attire grows more polished with each session. Movement motifs and qualities accompany each character, which later blend beautifully as they start working together.
Springster (Michel Rodriguez Cintra) and Mmm (Kara Brody) connect with a buoyant lift sequence, while Sparky Lightstep (Meghann Wilkinson) leads dancers in a stunning ripple effect. Rapid Glitch (Aaron R. White) delivers a delectable hip hop groove, and Professor Visionné (Elizabeth Luse) initiates a hilarious group effort to handles the heaviness of the great ideas in her head. The Big Liberjinski (danced by Texas native Jamy Meek) brings dramatic technical lines with his ballet technique, and Shadow (Jeff Ewing) delivers some virtuosic maneuvers.
The seamless integration of technical modern contemporary vocabulary while speaking proves quite sensational. They maintain their vocal composure and consistency even while dancing through complex choreography, making their movements appear simply effortless.
It’s such an innovative show, but there are few elements that might hinder the viewing experience.
Seating arrangement could be an important factor. In those instances where the performers navigate through training simulations, the overall picture might be lost if one pays more attention to one facet over the other. Because their movements either affect the projection or happen in reaction to it, both need to be taken in as one picture, expanding the field of vision to see the whole, rather than the components. This might prove difficult for those sitting too close, but audience members finding themselves further back might miss the subtle body language hints during the artist’s text interactions.
The relevant nature of the script allows for plenty of laughs and moments of contemplation, but those not familiar with the references might not find it as humorous.
A bonus to the production, however, is its roughly 75-minute run time with no intermission. Although it goes by much too quickly, it allows the audience to fully immerse themselves in the characters and narrative without interruption.