You Us We All, Shara Worden’s New Opera, at Carolina Performing Arts


‘You Us We All’ by Shara Worden, Andrew Ondrejczak & BOX at Holland Festival 2014 Amsterdam. Photo courtesy the artists.

The more I think about this opera, the more wonderful it seems as an artwork, and the more amazing that we had the opportunity to experience it. The commissioning European entities, the Brooklyn Academy of Music–and Carolina Performing Arts.

The music is haunting me, and the images remain vivid. Despite being a kind of Vanitas painting set in zany motion, it was so alive.

From my review published on

I found You Us We All mesmerizing and almost unbearably moving, with its hard truths laid so gently down before us. Its inclusive view of humanity, its deft activation of abstraction, its wordplay, its mature use of computer imaging, its implacable insistence on bodily reality, its equalizing of the intellectual and the sensual, its great beauty of sound, and its pink balloons of love combined to make this experimental opera a catharsis, and a wonder and a delight.

Read the whole review here.

AWKWARD MAGIC: ADF plays at Motorco, through July 1

Gregory Dolbashian in Awkward Magic: Scene 1: Nailed It. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Gregory Dolbashian in Awkward Magic: Scene 1: Nailed It. At ADF  at Motorco, 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

In recent years, the American Dance Festival, like Duke Performances, has increased the number and type of venues in which it presents work. One of the less formal of these is Motorco music hall, on the hopping corner of Rigsbee Avenue and West Geer Street, in the heart of Durham’s nightlife zone. The stage is small, the room is small, and the bar is open, making for a convivial situation, suitable for lighter-hearted, even zany, dance-theater. A show called Awkward Magic opened there on the 27th, and will run (2 shows/night) through Wed., July 1. It features skits by Gregory Dolbashian, Jordan Isadore and Deborah Lohse, who are joined in some of the 10 short pieces by several other dancers.

"Within Between"; Maggie Cloud, Simon Courchel, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer / John Jasperse. From ADF 2014.

Within Between: Maggie Cloud, Simon Courchel, Burr Johnson and Stuart Singer / choreography by John Jasperse. From ADF 2014, photo courtesy the artist.

I need to say right up front that, generally, I am not a fan of stand-up comedy, or improv, and tend to resent demands for audience participation. I’m not much on art about art (even John Jasperse’ fabulous, highly-styled work “Within Between” at ADF 2014 , with its incredibly inventive movement sequences, lost me when it dropped the drama of dance-making to close with the drearier aspects of the enterprise). I’m also far removed from the rhythms of television, and even further from the cult of celebrity for the its own sake. I fear I lack expertise in frivolity. I absolutely hate it when people call themselves “bitches.” These facts make me a less-than-ideal audience for Awkward Magic.

Nonetheless, I can enjoy a little pointed mockery of the dance world, show business and its creatures.

Although some of the skits made me cringe, I did get real laughs out of “TruDee” and her carryings on, especially her send-up of Merce Cunningham and John Cage and their love of randomness. In “TruDee: Reaching Out” Deborah Lohse, in her TruDee persona, snags an audience member for participation (I was not convinced he wasn’t a plant) in a series of actions made random by shuffling cards describing the action and choosing them randomly (I was not convinced of the randomness, either). It was a cute game, and obviously played well to a dance-informed crowd.

Awkward Magic's Deborah Lohse in character as TruDee. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Awkward Magic’s Deborah Lohse in be-sequined character as TruDee. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

The inside-joke aspect of all the segments was at once a strength and a weakness. An ADF crowd would tend to “get it” whereas a different crowd–say, one that adored Riverdance–might be mostly mystified and then offended.  It is one thing to turn the mockery on oneself, as Gregory Dolbashian does in his three skits, but Jordan Isadore’s “Thousands Place: Jody Sawyer Takes a Jazz Class” released a whiff of meanness. Set to music from Riverdance, Isadore and two other dancers (wearing white tennis-y clothes and keds) performed a mockery of Irish dancing that seemed, to my eye, lacking in the essential empathy that makes really good comedy.

Bitches 4 Ever. One of the more dancerly segments of Awkward Magic's act performed at Motorco. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Bitches 4 Ever. One of the more dancerly segments of Awkward Magic’s act performed at Motorco. At ADF 6/27/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

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