Posted by: strugglesome | March 8, 2011

Seeing Other People: The Blindspot Festival Presents Blind Date #2

The world of romantic relationships can be a very scary place these days. With internet dating and facebook poking and text messaging replacing actual verbal communication (I blame those Disney Channel kids, personally, but you can take your pick), it’s hard to have a real conversation with a real person about the weather, let alone dating. Meeting up for drinks or coffee is less of an exploration and more of a “let’s confirm if my googling of your name drew accurate results”. At this point, it’s probably better just to let a friend set you up, it cuts down on your digital stalking and you can always blame them if the evening turns out to be horrifically awkward. Of course, if you are a dancer and you want to be set up with another musician to riff the night away in cross disciplinary exploration, you might want to make sure those friend are Dustin Hurt and Anna Drozdowski, curators of Blindspot 2011 and hosts of “Blind Date” events that mix musicians and mover just to see what happens. Two of these such events, which Bowerbird has and will continue to showcase regularly, occurred as part of Blindspot 2011, giving unacquainted performers the chance to improv together in front of a live audience. And like any blind date this kind of thing can have it’s fair share of awkward moments, of disconnect, and of discomfort. But when two people vibe together, well, it’s an amazing thing to watch, to see minute to minute creation and communication between sound and gesture. So while not all of these pieces seem to need an audience or beg to be witnessed, some of them thrive underneath observation.

There were five sets of performers for this particular evening of first encounters, (in order of appearance) dancer Lisa Krause and musician Tatsuya Nakatani, dancer Bethany Formica and musician Jeb Lewis, dancer Scott McPheeters and musician Sam Cusamano, dancer Makoto Hirano and musician Evan Lipson, and dancer Lorin Lyle and musician Gene Coleman. Though even as I designate those titles I know them to be inaccurate and limiting; these dancers make music, the musicians move, the boundaries of position are shifted in this exercise. Of course, each pair is different, and each piece has to make immediate decisions concerning the rules of their brief collaboration. Each of the works is about 15 minutes long, which is a lot of time for a movement and music improv, and as one would expect the majority of these pieces are non-narrative, they are etudes rather than presentations.

Part of the issue with this kind of work is that it takes time to become acquainted with someone else’s movement style. Many of the performers where just starting to hit their groove in terms of communicating actively with each other as their time was up. Others ignored each other entirely, creating two different pieces existing on stage at the same time. Some of the musicians suffered from a lack of physical freedom; Lipson, confined to his bass, was forced to be static while Hirano circled him, playfully curious about the large man with the large instrument cursed with immobility. Not only was Coleman static in his improv with Lyle, but he was also in almost total darkness the whole time, cutting off communication between the two and making the piece about Lyle’s exploration of physical self, which was fascinating and also took it’s time, a sole slow exploration in an evening of fast motion.

Others, like Krause and Nakatani got to explore a wide range of sounds and movements, Nakatani coaxing strange groans and mechanical grunts from a drum set and other objects that score Krause’s movements with a mechanized feel. Though Nakatani was also confined to the area around his drum, he found a rhythm with Krause, involving his body in the exchange. Cusamano tried to move with McPheeters, but their exploration ended up alienating the audience with its lack of entry points for the spectator with which they could relate to the piece. And, hey, that happens, this is a difficult task, and what I would imagine to be a very helpful one for the artist, even if it’s not always accessible to the viewer. Formica and Lewis achieved the most harmony and clear give and take in their piece, infusing it with a playfulness and a sense of humor that delved into the literal discomfort of dating someone new. It was also the most narrative work, involving text and character to a degree that one wonders if they cheated and met up before hand to practice. Not that that would be a bad thing, honestly,there is a great deal to be said for preparation.

I don’t know how many of these works end up developing into long-term collaborations between the players, and maybe that’s not really the point for most of them. Sometimes things just go bump in the night and then never meet again, it doesn’t mean they weren’t worthwhile interactions, albeit brief. But even if these two individuals aren’t going to get married, artistically speaking, it’s certainly worth a second date, right? And speaking of a second date, the truth is that this in and of itself would be more interesting to the audience, that is, the second meeting, or the third, knowing what happens to these collaborative culture clashes and where that initial awkward encounter is taken by the artists.  It’s exciting that Hurt and Drozdowski have selected these pairs and thrown them together, but would be even more exciting would be seeing that develop into something more than a fling. After all, being afraid of commitment is just so passe.

Blindspot 2011 is over, but if you missed it you should try to catch all of these performers in other venues and productions, and join the mailing list to get more information about upcoming events like these. I can promise you they will be eye-opening, at the very least.

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