Silicon Dance Project

September 26, 2002

Dancers from Chimaera Physical Theater and Modern Dance Turkey collaborated on the claustrophobic Room.
Courtesy The Silicon Dance Project

Silicon Dance Project

St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery
New York, New York

September 26?28, 2002

Reviewed by Wendy Perron

The Silicon Dance Project has brought together Chimaera Physical Theater, a small collaborative group from Amherst, Massachusetts, with six dancers of Modern Dance Turkey, a state-funded touring company from Ankara, Turkey. The project has embarked on an East Coast tour with a program called Room. According to the program notes, the collaborators ask themselves, “What happens when our realities collide? And how do we find the strength to face the reality inside ourselves?”

In all four pieces, the edge factor was high. I Don’t Want You, choreographed by Dieter Baumann and Jutta Hell, and danced by four members of Modern Dance Turkey, was both bleak and inventive. Two men and two women partnered each other in twists and falls but seemed to be dancing in a void. They helped each other in odd, sometimes slightly cruel ways. At one point, a woman seemed to bounce a man like a yo-yo.

The Dark Room,
a product of Chimaera Physical Theater, was basically a soliloquy spoken by a character whose mouth, face, and body are deformed. Mikal Evans’s performance got under your skin. Yes, it was clear that she was not disabled. But her willingness to crook her arm and mash her words beyond comprehension opened the door to the poignance of a tragically impaired life. Equally effective was the script by Evans and Mollye Maxner, a codirector of Chimaera. (Both Evans and Maxner have worked with developmentally disabled adults.) Hearing sentences like “My roommate has a warm heart” and “I like vanilla pudding,” we realized that the character had a functioning, if childlike, psyche?and further, was a wise and forgiving human being.

The Living Room,
created and performed by Maxner and Kelly Parsley, the other codirector of Chimaera, was riveting. Parsley is an extraordinary performer. Through precise, obsessive motions at a table, like gathering and pounding, he established himself as a mysterious character with a runaway imagination. Reminiscent of the doomed Jud Fry in Oklahoma! but with a touch of the industrious Dr. Coppélius, he performed his actions with the authority and speed of a colorful eccentric. Maxner’s entrance changed the tone and place to a domestic situation. To the songs of Tom Waits (like his droll/dark rendition of “Waltzing Matilda”), Parsley and Maxner began a journey of attraction, acrimony, love, and hope, all with a kind Appalachian look?bare, strong, determined.

The longest piece was Room, choreographed by Maxner with Alpaslan Karaduman and Burge Ozturk of Modern Dance Turkey. Three sections of the floor were outlined to reveal three alternating realities, one of which had a black-and-white checkerboard surface. While Maxner, downstage, poured angst into everyday motions such as unscrewing a jar, an upstage couple gently built a drama out of a bit with a sweater, until the sweater itself seemed to symbolize restlessness. The group on the checkerboard began murmuring among themselves and eventually erupted into violent thrusts and falls. Although the action took too long to unfold and the piece was unnecessarily dominated by Maxner, one got the feeling of a true collaboration and a shared aesthetic of astringency. All the performers seemed to strive against some kind of entrapment or confinement. Their movements exuded a readiness for change that filled the space with a crackling vitality.