ADF: Cherdonna

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Cherdonna performing Clock That Mug or Dusted  at the Living Arts Collective as part of ADF Out of the Box. Photo: Ben McKeown.

 

Cherdonna Shinatra‘s ADF performance Saturday was along the general lines I had expected from reading up on her, and talking with her, yet I can’t recall having been as surprised at ADF since I first saw Dairakudakan (or at least Rosie Herrera), as I was by the first of Cherdonna’s series of six performances in the Living Arts Collective theater on West Geer St.

The outward appearance of Clock That Mug or Dusted is one of induced chaos (and there’s not much dancing), but it’s driven by a subtle mind that has created this mad melange with its own sly kind of order. If you have any interest in the further reaches of performance art/dance theater, I urge you to go to one of the two remaining performances–Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th. This art is not going to submit to rational analysis: it must be experienced; I can’t describe it for you beyond saying that this is some superior strangeness, high-chroma, with lots of sensuous substances spread around, and lots of great physical theatre.  Although some audience participation is required, those who play are well rewarded, and Cherdonna won’t pick on you if you really don’t want to participate.

Cherdonna’s creator, Jody Kuehner, seems to have drawn sustenance from many sources. Not just from Cher and Madonna, the performers whose names she has appropriated, but Dolly Parton, too. Not just the work of 1960s feminist body art/dance practitioners, and drag style queens, but children’s puppeteer Shari Lewis and her character Lamb Chop. Plus 1970s womyn’s music, Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street, and Shen Wei. Also physical clowning traditions–and Butoh. And Mary Tyler Moore. The incredible thing is that it holds together. Often hilarious, it is also unexpectedly touching, and really, very sweet. Cherdonna clearly subscribes to the “honey draws more flies than vinegar” technique of winning friends and influencing people, and honey, she loves her some paradox.

48 hours later, and I’m still feeling like the boa constrictor that swallowed the elephant: this is going to take a while to digest! Tickets here.

 

 

RAD’s boneGlow at Living Arts Collective

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RAD dancers Lucas Melfi, Nicole Lawson, Rachel Mehaffey and Allie Pfeffer in boneGlow, choreographed by Renay Aumiller in conjunction with them. Photo: Jen Guy Metcalf.

Warning: when artist you admire makes an admirable experiment that does not entirely succeed, the reviewing process may be painful to all involved.

The talented choreographer Renay Aumiller, inspired by her pregnancy and the birth of twin boys, has been thinking about change. Good change, bad change, and how difficult change can be, even if you’ve courted it. And if you’ve resisted a certain change, how can you alter your thinking to fit new conditions not of your choosing? As a dancer, Aumiller came at the problem kinetically, asking herself: If I change how I move, and how I make dances, will it change how I think?

Please click here to read my full review on Classical Voice of North Carolina.

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A dynamic moment from RAD’s boneGlow in rehearsal. Photo: Jen Guy Metcalf.

 

Orbiting in the Outer Reaches

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Carley McCready in the cosmic static. Rehearsal photo courtesy of Rabble and Twine.

 

I was thrilled to received a press release from DIDA, Durham Independent Dance Artists, giving information on a new work NOT about self-identity, group identity or activism–but about something really big, way too big: The Mesoplanets orbiting far, far away. This one-night-only event occurred May 6, at the Living Arts Collective, and while it did not fulfill its potential, The Mesoplanets was a strong and consistently engaging debut into the arena of full-length staged works by Rabble & Twine.

Rabble and Twine co-founders, Luke Selden and Anna Seagrave, recently of Providence, RI, met in graduate school at Mills College (Oakland, CA), where they began merging their arts. Selden makes music and video; Seagrave makes dances. For this journey into the fascinations of space, in particular of those little planets that get no respect, Selden and Seagrave brought together another half-dozen dancers and four “noise makers,” including Allen Anderson with whom Selden had studied music at UNC as an undergrad, and Ellis Anderson of No One Mind–together their synth-duo is called sfm. There was also the one-named violinist Morgan, in a mask, and recorded speech by Helene Rosenbluth.

There was video background with wry voice-overs by Selden; one short side of the stage was banked by sound gear and musicians and a tiny “wing” for the dancers. The audience occupied the other two sides of the rectangle, and those on the long side, facing the video, would have had a much more complete experience of the work than I did from the short side, from which one couldn’t really watch the video while watching the dancers, choreographed by Anna Seagrave. The work’s three acts–The Known, The New World, and The Void–comprised nine dances, and one purely musical segment. The Mesoplanets is a very ambitious work, serious and sweetly humorous, and while it could use a little tightening, overall it was captivating. There was remarkably little dross and some standout moments among the several strong movement sections, and the music was intriguing, even mesmerizing, throughout–though especially compelling in Act II. Although I couldn’t give the video the attention it deserved, I could tell that its rhythms and rather magisterial pacing were key to the overall work’s coherence and sense of long journeying into the far unknown.

As a group, Seagrave’s dances investigated the characteristics of various mesoplanets, and of the people who dream of them. There was a great deal of emphasis on orbits and orbiting, which was strikingly effective in a kind of cat’s cradle dance for the ensemble and two long ropes. This piece went well beyond clever, into elegance and beauty, as it caught and spun the dancers in intersecting elliptical orbits–like the planets, always in motion but never free to leave their delineated paths. Anna Seagrave, Carley McCready and Aijia Nicole Bryant stood out among the dancers for their verve and elasticity. It was particularly nice to see McCready and Seagrave together, for the contrasts. McCready is small, lithe and sports a brown bob; Seagrave is taller, blonde and due to give birth in July. It was fascinating to see how differently the same movement sequences express from the varying bodily states.

The varying abilities of the dancers, however, were not always a benefit, and dragged down some of the larger dances, and there was a real problem with the recorded voice-overs. The sounded like they’d been recorded on a phone, by people without voice training; the volume was inadequate throughout, and sometimes the voice was covered completely by the music. If the spoken content is meant to be an equal partner with the music, visuals and dance, it needs some technical assistance.

According to Seagrave, Saturday’s performance was her last before her baby is due. But look for Seagrave and Selden/Rabble & Twine, perhaps in DIDA’s next season. They are welcome additions to Durham’s dance scene, and it will be very interesting to see what changes in Seagrave’s work with motherhood. In the meantime, we get to find that out about Renay Aumiller, now returned from her maternity leave (twins!). She will be presenting her new work, boneglow, at the Living Arts Collective June 2-4 as the DIDA season continues. Three shows only in that small space, don’t wait. Tickets on her website.

 

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Denver Carlstrom and Aijia Nicole Bryant during rehearsal for the glow-stick storm segment. Rehearsal photo courtesy of Rabble and Twine.

 

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