Chrisitan Burns in The Fleshing Memory.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum
San Francisco, California
January 3�4, 2003
Reviewed by Heather Wisner
There were wide-open spaces and claustrophobic corners in The Foundry’s new multimedia modern work The Fleshing Memory�suggestions of freedom and darker hints of isolation. Intriguing elements, which didn’t always mesh, contributed to the work’s spare, enigmatic appeal.
Alex Ketley and Christian Burns, who met as students at the School of American Ballet and danced together in Alonzo King’s LINES Contemporary Ballet, founded The Foundry in 1998. In this piece, done for their artists’ residency at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, they engaged Ronald K. Brown/Evidence apprentice Nick Yagoda (who has worked with The Foundry since its inception), and three former LINES colleagues: Marina Hotchkiss and Andrea Flores to dance and Summer Lee Rhatigan to speak. The work was set in Yerba Buena’s Forum, a big, square room where risers bracketed the dancing in the center of the floor. Film screens hung at opposing corners, above small hills of crumpled pink construction paper.
The piece, which incorporated both natural and urban settings and a soundscape of plaintive piano music combined with the rustle of wind through trees, opened with video footage of a man running slowly past dilapidated buildings and vacant lots tufted with dry grass. At a similarly deliberate pace, Hotchkiss entered in a shaft of light along a diagonal, with air-carving port de bras and balances. Her partnership with Ketley, under within a pool of light, bore traces of King’s choreographic influence in its mercurial directional changes, while the birdlike scoop and arch of Kotchkiss’s back was well attuned to the chirp of birds and crickets that emerged over the loudspeakers. Here, the piece did evoke memory, of seasonal shifts and changing relationships.
The dancing triumphed over other, less successful elements of the performance. Rhatigan’s spoken word was barely audible and was intruded upon by music that faded in and out abruptly (Jimmy Scott’s rendition of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”), and there were moments of video projection which echoed, without necessarily strengthening, the live action. Loneliness was abstracted in the extreme with video footage of an older character who went about his household chores in a pink-construction-paper suit, and as Ketley, live, taped up in that same paper, made his way around the periphery as the other dancers folded and flew paper airplanes above his head.
But the dancers, dressed in street clothes and sneakers, brought crystalline technique, serious focus, and an emotional heft to the piece, even when the intent wasn’t always clear. Partnerships were tender, with physical connections as intimate as they were odd: hands cupping heavy heads, or teeth tugging at shirtsleeves. In a mesmerizing solo, Yagoda became a disabled man fighting to control his spastic limbs and twitching fingers�as he lurched stiffly across the floor, knees and elbows akimbo, he stopped to kiss his own hand or touch his chest, with glimpses of breath between steps. This short piece ended as it had begun, on the diagonal, with an exit to John Lennon’s “Mind Games” and the refrain “Love is the answer.” Despite some baffling moments in The Fleshing Memory, The Foundry is onto something that feels both real and true.