“Spaceholder Festival”

Mystery of the mundane

Morgan Thorson's latest, hosted by Alverno Presents, makes the everyday magical in the bodies and voices of five dancers.

By - Feb 17th, 2013 05:49 pm
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A moment from Morgan Thorson’s “Spaceholder Festival.” All photos from screenshots from a teaser video produced by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography.

Morgan Thorson’s Spaceholder Festival, seen Saturday night on the Alverno Presents series, demanded attention. It was surprising, funny and, in the strangest way possible, familiar.

Sxip Shirey (introduced as “a real-life circus composer” in our program) created the sound composition for Spaceholder Festival. He came out swinging, with really creepy ambient noise. The dancers slid in from offstage in a slow side-step. Hannah Kramer, first in line, placidly held a shiny butcher’s knife. Karen Sherman, Kristin Van Loon, Jessica Cressey and Max Wirsing followed and turned the same contented stare toward the audience.

The crack-the-whip line slowly broke up as they began to weave around each other while the music built. As they came together at the climax, I all but cowered in my seat against a possible sneak attack on the audience. Instead, the horror music gave way to The Beatles and the dancers broke into peppy, friendly dance moves. They mimed big-band saxophone players, enthusiastically bending at the waist with their imaginary instruments and marching to and fro.

Spaceholder Festival continued to switch its soundtrack — ambient noise, pop music and complete silence were in the mix. Shirey prides himself on using everyday objects to create his compositions. I heard a crackling fire, a washing machine, windshield wipers, and a vacuum cleaner. Such sounds in such a context at once created a sense of the every day and utter weirdness.

Some of the dancing echoed the soundscape. At one point Kramer stepped to the front of the stage, loosed her ponytail, flipped her hair upside down and shook it around a bit. Every woman does every day when she gets out of the shower. Framed and celebrated on stage, this action turned abnormal and totally gorgeous.

Another stand-out moment found the dancers sprawled on their backs in front of a white surface. (I later realized it was a propped up plastic table). They wiggled on the floor, removing their brightly colored tights. Then, they simply threw them at the table. Really, that was it. But the split-second image of a bundle of color popping against the white backdrop was striking.

By far the most tense routine occurred as a duet between Van Loon and Sherman. After dismantling a love pile with all five dancers, Van Loon slowly crawled onto Sherman’s back, as he is down on doggy all-fours. The two rock back and forth incredibly slowly, for a really long time, in silence. Outstanding, if only because of the moment’s bold awkwardness.

Soon after, Van Loon comes forward, crouches down, stares at the audience, and smacks the floor twice with her hand. Clap, clap. What? She steps back and squats down, then slaps her hands against her thighs. Clap, clap. Oh, I see. We all do that when we call our dog, or our toddler. Come here, come here!

Michael McDonald’s “Minute by Minute” brings all the dancers back to the stage, as Cressey is dragged around, queen-like, on an old blanket. She deposits chunks of foam and various shoes around the stage. For the rest of the performance, the dancers kick them around, pick them up, even attach them to their outfits. They are examined but never really go away, just like our thoughts and memories.

Thorson, based in Minneapolis, keeps the surprises. Suddenly, the dancers started speaking. At first, it was abstract. They all had pieces of foam in hand when Van Loon suddenly said “you can have the fresh one.” A voice echoed the statement from the P.A. in a robotic tone, first identical, then devolving from Van Loon’s “ours is so far away!” to “separate, separate.”

Eventually, Kramer and Sherman joined in full-blown conversation, speaking about an imagined piece of art. They began talking over each other, faster and faster, and then suddenly, the performance had evolved into an auction. Wirsling walked forward, wearing an ornate neck pillow and high heels, directing the crowd. Kramer and Sherman repeated “the handle goes up and the hammer comes down” as an accelerating tongue twister. When Sherman finally dropped the microphone, the audience gave a couple “woo!”s for her auctioneering.

The end of Spaceholder Festival found the dancers both contemplating each other and relishing their private spaces. They mimed tying their shoes and flossing. They did a type of seizure-dance, jostling into each other. They lay quietly on the floor. They scooted strangely across the floor. They rearranged the foam and shoes on a table. They cleared the table and dragged it across the stage. They pointed at each other. They numerated with their fingers.

They brought back that knife.
Next up for Alverno Presents: Sissoko and Segal.

Morgan Thorson “Spaceholder Festival” Research in 2011 from MANCC on Vimeo.

 

Categories: A/C Feature 3, Dance

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