Posted by: strugglesome | June 8, 2011

Step Up 2 The Streets: RealLivePeople(In)Motion presents Backstories

Life is a funny thing. You might be walking down the street, minding your own business, and suddenly find yourself as the hero of someone else’s life story, or the villain, or just the observer, all without your own knowledge. Because we don’t really know how we effect other people, especially strangers, we never get a chance to stop and ask, was that as meaningful to you as it was to me? Did you know I needed you to smile just that way? Is there a reason you seem to hate me? No, we just walk on by. Or, if we are members of RealLivePeople(In)Motion, a dance group founded by Gina Hoch-Stall and Katelyn Reiersen, you make a dance about it. But it’s definately going to be one of those two options.

Backstories, RealLivePeople(In)Moti0n’s second full length piece, celebrates the periphery. A series of dance pieces sandwiched between vignettes and stories and peppered with humor, each one exploring the everyday interactions that pass quickly and unsung, the entire work is loosely structured around a real life observation recorded and observed by Hoch-Stall and her dancers, Adams Berzins, Molly Jackson, Sara Nye and Hedy Wyland. Their differing perspectives of the significance of what they’ve seen paint three pictures, three gently told pastorals in muted shades and movement.

Performed in the Latvian Society with a mural designed by Andrea Caldarise to mirror the dance on one side of the room, the work sways along to Ilan Isakov’s dreamy marine tinted original score. Simply lit, the work plays with the dimensions and limitations of the space, rolling on and off the stage, creating multiple worlds on multiple levels, and allowing the opening and closing of a door to take on significance beyond the everyday. Costumes in jersey knit flow over the bodies performing, and because they don’t scream “dance show” they transition easily between walking and jumping, between stretching and spinning. You know, things that people would actually be able to move in, as opposed to the stripper heels and spandex that so often stand in for “street clothing” in the world of dance costuming.

The hour long piece doesn’t have a narrative or an arc, rather it moves like the ocean, coming in and out in waves. And waves then becomes a meaningful analogy for the style of movement choreographed by Hoch-Stall and performed by her talented dancers. Motions stretch, multiply, ripple through the bodies of the small company, shifting in intensity and volume and then subsiding gracefully. Using a fairly simple movement vocabulary the work highlights the athleticism of the dancers, each one is powerful, controlled yet free, no delicacy or dainty pretense here. What is most interesting about this group of people is their focus, their eye contact, the sense that they are actually observing and reacting to each other on stage. That level of internal community and communication isn’t something we always expect from dance, it seems that precision and perfection have overtaken organic interaction, but at a certain point it doesn’t matter how good your plies are if we can’t actually connect with you.

If Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is to be believed (and I think those of us who are down with science believe it is) the act of observation changes both the observer and the observed. Well, in this case we can’t actually know what happened to the observed interaction, but we can see all the ways in which is effects the observers. Putting a spotlight on a moment in time projects meaning and emotion onto it, saying more about us then it does about the moment. A woman faltering at an intersection (Nye) transforms into a rumination on hesitation and public vulnerability.  A moment of tension between a couple (Hoch-Stall and Berzins, switching genders back and forth with the shift of a hat) amplifies, another pair, (Wyland and Berzins portraying the man and Jackson and Nye depicting the woman) begs each other for attention, exposing the cracks and caring in their relationships.  These observations might not be earth shattering but they highlight the parts of our lives that often go unnoticed, the aspects of our lives that never stand out in contrast, but fade into the grey. Well, not if RealLivePeople(In)Motion has anything to say about it.

RealLivePeople(In)Motion’s Backstories has completed it’s short run, but you can find out more about the company here, and you can catch Hoch-Stall in the upcoming Live Arts/Philadelphia Fringe Festival this September.




  1. I was lucky enough to see the performance this weekend and confirm the reviewer’s comments. This is dance peformed by “real live people” which makes you want to attend to the daily interactions that surround you with more care but also to get up and move!

    The dancers, the musical composition and the art work were all amazing.


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