TEEN AMBASSADOR: ABBEY BRANCO | FEBRUARY 27, 2016
There is a vibrant soul resonating in the world of dance. A pulsating heart that ignites emotion and empathy into both the performer and the audience as a whole. An emotional and raw introduction into the primal emotions of humankind, dance opens us up to what it truly means to express ourselves. Where words are left in the minds of the viewer themselves, interpretation and imagination fill in the gaps that dialogue originally fills. For the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center’s latest production of Body Traffic, artistic integrity proves just how forceful a message can be through choreographed movement.
Split into three thirty minute productions, the L.A. conceived dance group focuses the talents of multiple contemporary dancers into compositions focusing on jealousy, independence, and self-expression. These universal themes are graced with the names “And At Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square…”, “Dust”, and “O2Joy”.
“And At Midnight…” takes the audience into the streets of choreographer, Barak Marshall’s family home in Aden, Yemen and the turmoil that lies in the home of his mother’s neighbors. The performers (Christina Bodie, Melissa Bourkas, Joseph Kudra, Lindsey Matheis, Spencer Ramirez, Matthew Rich, Guzman Rosado, and Micaela Taylor) showcase authentic emotion. A bell tolls, a single woman is illuminated throughout the darkness of the stage, bathing her in focus. Each costume adorned by the dancers are of a time now passed, an old-fashioned and nostalgic appearance clashing with the swift and new age movements. The women fume as their husbands seemingly toss away marital values as they switch partners in a pulsing tango. The music pitches, darkness fills the house, a bell tolls. Marshall plucks out the nervousness of marriage, of familial bonds, of unrequited affection. A silent soliloquy for each sibling and spouse, the audience can only sit by and watch as the women fight for their voice to be heard while the men struggle to comprehend their own.
In the household tribulations of Marshall’s work comes with the rigidity of choreographer, Hofesh Shecter’s, “Dust”.. What does it mean to be a product of your own design? During this half hour piece, it is “something to fight for, something to live for, something to die for”, as the voiceover recites as each performer portrays a robotic and meticulous pattern of kicks and shrugs. Spotlights trail after them as they form the lines that creators per usually subject themselves to in the face of their art. They are clad in plain dresses and pressed suits, a white-collar ordinance clashing with the fluidity of contemporary hand gestures that call out for freedom in their own work. The music is clunky and sharp, almost unappealing to the blind ear if not given the chance to watch on as a single dancer strays from the pack to showcase how much life is trapped within him. As he finds himself, his peers are left to fight for survival.
The silver lining in all three productions is given some leeway however, in choreographer, Richard Siegal’s harlem renaissance-esque “O2Joy”. The dancers are decked out in simple sweaters, jeans, socks, and sundresses as they careen across the floor. Followed by the voices of Oscar Peterson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Glenn Miller, there is only the celebration of one’s self discovery and love. American Jazz is the one and only focus as each dancer breaks through the opulent backlighting and bop and skip and swerve around their partners. Every song carries a reverberating idea of love. Where Peterson’s, “Mumbles” is shown to focus on the love of one’s voice, Fitzgerald’s “All of Me” is solely on self-appreciation and discovery. A feel good production at its core, every performance given is the gateway into a counterculture time that is being enjoyed still today.
Some may struggle with the interpretations and free will given in Body Traffic’s ensemble. Without spoken word, there are holes left to be covered up by each individual person and differing views. Nonetheless, there is an exhilaration in this opportunity, an ability to fully come together and become one with the art presented. In a way, the notions conjured by the viewer is threading themselves with the dance, connecting every memory and belief into the sporadic and metropolitan compositions presented. There is that overarching possibility to be free in the actions of others.