Monday, May 19, 2008

Dance Made in a Country that Makes War

Dance Made in a Country that Makes War began as an inquiry into the lives of people who serve to protect the United States of America. Through interviews with domestic and foreign soldiers, as well as the FBI, Police Officers, and activists, the subject matter meanders from the disconnect between civilians and the military, the muscle memory of violence, the effects of group mentality on the individual, and ends finally with the questioning of the dancers' personal roles in the actions of our military at home and abroad. The dancers perform all necessary stage-hand roles so that the show is self-contained. We operate in some semblance of a military unit, relying on ourselves to make lighting and sound happen, rather than having stage-hands who make things happen behind the scenes. The show presented here is a work-in-progress with its next version to be performed at the Grass Roots Festival in Trumansburg, NY this July. Dance Made begins while the audience is entering the performance space. Audience members must walk through or around the stage to get to their seats, which cascade down from the true stage, spilling onto the dance floor.

The show is broken into scenes with two reoccurring tableaux. The first tableaux, as seen here, is the TV scene, where the cast join their bodies to support an average American couple watching the evening news. Duet created from extraction personal experiences.
Group Movement focusing on unity, structure, timing. Our movement uses no musical ques, requiring the dancers to rely one another to stay together.

The second Tableaux is the Voterbooth Sequence. Each dancer is assigned a booth in which they pretend to cry until they are overcome by real emotion, at which point they leave the booth and ring a bell on stage, signalling to the others that the exercise has been successful. The exercise is a reversal of military training by which one is stripped of their normal emotional responses.

A quartet emerges from the lines of voter booths, and does a dance of search and collision, ending with the precarious balancing of their booths.
We return to the TV Tableaux to find the couple immersed in each other while the newscaster speaks of social reform, environmental successes, important stuff. The newscaster is similarly disconnected with what he speaks about, receiving a manicure while reporting the good news.
The scene deteriorates with the couch pulling away from the couple, rolling as a mass of disorderly bodies back to the Voterbooth Quartet which is played in reverse.
Back in their original formation, the dancers begin pretending to laugh. They continue, playing with their lights, and making faces at one another until someone is really overcome with laughter, at which point they exit their booth and go to ring the bell.
Having successfully reintroduced emotion into their bodies, the quartet emerges again, leaving their booths in the lines. The perform an exploration in the muscle memory of violent experiences as a means of extracting them from their bodies.

The cast is unified by armless costumes which turn their bodies into bags of motion. Rebekah sings a lullaby to her bread baby telling the tale of foreboding chaos. She faints just as the arm attacks her, tearing apart her bread baby and eating it as the march off. She wakes from her faint and screams in terror, then forgetting completely what has happened, exits singing a cheerful tune.
We return to our final TV Tableaux to find the couple getting off as the newscaster tells of death and destruction. They are literally using the news as porn.
The lights are out and we hear the trailing voices of news reports. The Extro begins with the sound of a heartbeat. Lights up to reveal one cast member beating his heals on the floor at the front of the stage, while the rest lay at the back of the space, beating on their bodies in a rhythmic fashion.
The beat themselves to the front of the stage and join the heartbeat with their heels. Facing one another the cast answers questions they've imagined from the warm-up at the beginning of the show, speaking aloud to each other so that the audience can hear them.

As they speak about their personal relationship to war, art, society, an old wheezing figure crosses the stage pushing a graveyard of amputated Christmas Trees.
When through talking the dancers begin freezing in positions of every-day movements. Changing positions in unison and holding between changes in freeze-frame. After some time of this people in the audience begin throwing shoes over the heads of dancers and audience members alike, bombing the empty space with footwear.
The dancers continue freeze-framing until after the bombing has stopped. They all turn slowly upstage to see what has happened while they were busy with their normal lives. They crawl to standing passing through the wreckage, coming together for a bow.
(Thank you Collin Polnitsky for your photography.)

Director: Kate Shearman
Assistant Director: Rebekah Dillon
Dancers: Beatrice Barbareschi, Shiela Brown, Rebekah Dillon, Katherine Hayes, Athena Kokoronis, Michael Margolin, Biz Miller, Kelly Ryan, Kate Shearman, Emilie Blum Stark-Menneg, Noni TheLittleOne, J. Young.