Dance Alloy company members Michael Walsh and Gwen Hunter Ritchie are shown onscreen and onstage in Translocations: What If?
Photograph by Sarah Higgins
Carnegie Mellon University
September 14, 1999
Reviewed by Karen Dacko
Carnegie Mellon University, has instituted Wats: On?-The Jill Watson Festival Across the Arts, an annual three-day celebration of multidisciplinary lectures, video presentations, and performances to honor the memory of their graduate award-winning architect Jill Watson who perished in a 1996 airline crash off Long Island, New York.
Opening night paired the dedication of architectural artist Magdalena Jetelova’s underground installation, “Translocation,” with choreographer Mark Taylor’s thirty-five-minute site-specific premiere, Translocations: What If? Taylor, collaborating with video artist Joe Seamans, successfully explored Jetelova’s penchant for dislocation via inspired, canny insight into the choreographic process.
The well-crafted work began in silence on the bare wooden lecture hall stage. The four Dance Alloy members, dressed in gauzy white, executed stylized warm-up stretches until a godlike Taylor appeared onscreen overhead. His commands and complicated instructions, preceded by “What if . . .,” elicited chuckles from the audience, as various groupings of dancers?accompanied by an ever-changing score?experimentally reprised two lyrical movement phrases from different stage directions. The skillfully wrought spatial levels and varied timing, plus sharp visual contrasts, entertainingly introduced the concept of dislocation.
More challenging to assimilate, part two rotated the vertical axis through projected images, reflective of?but not synchronized with?the live action. Frames of softly upstretched arms, soles of feet, and extended legs created an arresting montage of the onscreen dancers, who, clad in loose black garments, were often seen angled, upside down, or sideways.Complementing these skewed perceptions, the onstage choreography?built on counterbalance and weight?emphasized angular shapes, which were created through partnering. For example, in an extended pairing, a couple leaned backward, neck to neck. As they slowly moved forward, pushing against each other, the pressure was palpable.
The work concluded as dancers exited or froze, fetally curled, then reappeared, standing motionless onscreen. The device?though predictable?was artistically satisfying. The final image of Taylor slowly walking diagonally toward the onscreen cast translated as a powerful theatrical moment.
In a unique epilogue, curled bodies lined the path from the auditorium to Jetelova’s underground installation site for the unveiling ceremony.