MARKSMAN, take aim: Kate Weare’s new work premieres at ADF

After having seen Kate Weare‘s dance Lay Me Down Safe, performed by the Scottish Dance Theatre in 2012, I had been eagerly awaiting her new work commissioned by the American Dance Festival (and The Joyce Theater). Marksman, danced by six members of the Kate Weare Company, premiered in Reynolds Theater June 21 as ADF continues. Sad to say, the movement language was not very imaginative, and the dancing was short on force and clarity.

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Kate Weare Company in Weare’s ADF-commissioned Marksman, which premiered in Reynolds Theater 6/21/16. Photo: Grant Halverson.

 

Marksman‘s basic idea is always intriguing, and a potent one for dance making: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. A marksman releases an arrow; the pierced target quivers, perhaps falls; the marksman’s satisfaction either bears up or crumbles under the unleashed force of destruction or death; whichever way, the both the marksman and the target are changed. Any energy one exerts rebounds in some way. The maker makes, but the thing made also shapes the maker. The life force erupts everywhere, irrespective of the previous condition of surroundings–babies tear through their mothers’ bodies; chicks shatter eggs, tree sprouts upend sidewalks and bring down foundations, and then there’s love. But the receiving environment or person exerts its own counterforce. The life-dance is endless, perpetual motion. However, art must come to an end, and must therefore make a little drama out of physical and metaphysical facts, if it is to succeed in retaining our attention and adding to the sum total of human wisdom. 50 minutes of restating the opening premise with minor variations doesn’t quite do that.

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An instant of eruptive force in Marksman, 6/21/16. Photo: Grant Halverson.

It’s possible that first-night hesitancy drained some of the necessary energies from the dance. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the composition of any of the segments, although you can’t get around there being no real build of tension to go with the increasing tempo over the course of the work. None of the push/push back, or compression/release contrasts fueled the viewer’s bodily appreciation of the theme, and this viewer did not often feel the eruptive vitality often hinted at by outthrust arms. The music, composed and designed by Curtis Robert Macdonald, has all the same issues, and seemed to just wander around, unfocused. The set design by Clifford Ross shows an engrossing landscape, a craggy ridge behind dark trees, seen between gray columns. With a change in Mike Faba’s lighting, we see it as three hanging banners, which underlines the idea of flow between the changer and the changed. Overall, though, the lighting is a bit dim: the lovely details of the elegant costumes (Sarah Cubbage) that were visible to the camera could not be seen from row J.

In a way, it doesn’t really matter that any one dance doesn’t quite jell. Of course, one would rather see a great dance. But it matters more that the artists get opportunities to make complex artworks with high production values, and it matters very much that people go to see what they have made. If the art doesn’t hit us, the target, cleanly–well, the audience’s energy affects the art, too. We are all part of the energy loop.

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This sex-reversed Cupid and Psyche moment was among the more compelling dance sequences in Marksman, 6/21/16. Photo: Grant Halverson.

The program repeats tonight, Wed. June 22, and Thurs. June 23 at 8 pm, Reynolds Theater. Tickets here.

Tonight also begins Sarah Juli’s 3-night run in ADF’s Out of the Box series, in the Showroom at Motorco. Shows at 7 and 9 thru the 24th Tickets for that here.

The kind of stuff I live for. Scottish Dance Theatre at American Dance Festival

From my review published June 23, 2012 in Classical Voice of North Carolina. Read the full review here.

Kate Weare’s Lay Me Down Safe blew my mental breakers in the first minutes, getting right down to what the best dance does best: It brings experience and understanding through the body and its senses. When the lights came up at the end of this eight-dancer exposé of love and danger, I felt like a selkie caught outside my sealskin—unprotected, revealed; muscle, bone and skin tingling with sensation. Much of this magic is worked with the choreography, which struck me as profoundly female, but the entire visual is important, and of course, the dark, rhythmic music mix (including Nouvelle Vague, Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen). Both the backdrops and the costumes—tunics over skirts—are in shades of warm greys, which change in emotional value when the lighting alternates between sidelights and shadow-casting footlights. All the elements combine to create an atmosphere where tender safety and casual obliteration exist in the same moment—just as in the “real” world.

See rehearsal video here. See video of Drift onstage here.

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