Kinesis Project Dance Theatre, headed up by dancer/choreographer Melissa Riker, had its full evening of performance last Saturday. My ties to Mel are multiple. I met her, as I did many good friends, performing in a show called Significant Circus, in 2001. She, Kate Magram, Patrick Lacey and I formed a sort of creative support group not too long after that--The Exploding Yurts (please don't ask)--and Kirkos came into being shortly after that. In the six years that I've known her, I've had the pleasure of watching Mel work and grow through that work. Saturday evening was a surprisingly emotional experience for me. I should have expected it, but I was surprised to experience just how much hope and excitement I was giving off during the concert. I was seeing my friend's work fully realized. I know how difficult that is to achieve, and something about just how much that means to her.
Me and modern dance, we don't hang out much . . . in spite of having had long-term relationships with two professional dancers in my time. I have a great appreciation for what the dancers can do, how expressive and dynamic their bodies and movements are. I envy that, in truth. I also respect it. So much so, in fact, that I refuse to be categorized as a dancer. This occasionally brings much frustration to the likes of Friends Melissa and Patrick, who are hell-bent on convincing me that I am worthy of at least the adjective, "dancer," if not the title. I resist. It's related to how I feel about Joe Nobody doing Guys & Dolls in his community theatre and then going around calling himself an actor. I mean, sure, he is. (Mad props to ma' boy Joe.) But he hasn't received any training, he hasn't gotten up at dawn to stand in a line for an open call, he hasn't haggled over a summer stock contract or sold worldly belongings in order to take said contract.
But I transtate a bit.
So we don't hang, me and the modern. I have just enough experience and appreciation to say about a concert, "I liked it because of THIS. THIS seemed a little weak, but that may have been in support of achieving THAT." I've been to concerts with dancers before, and often we appreciate the opposite aspects. When a number leans toward narrative a bit, I get excited. When it is seemingly solely about the beauty of the movement, I begin to tune out. Don't get me wrong: It's beautiful. Wow. Pretty. But so is a photograph of a sunset, and somebody needs to tell me why I should care. That's me. I'm an actor. Because of this bias (and I've done what I can think of to separate my appreciation for theatre from my appreciation for dance), some dance concerts I've seen have made me want to claw out my eyes and throw them underfoot.
And it's not the ones that are all about the beauty. No. If I can figure that out from an early moment--that priority--I can sit back and relax, let them dance me where they may. Rather, it's the ones that have something to say, but don't seem to give a damn if you understand it. Or that say something whether you like it or not, sucka! These really get to me, because the people involved--though I'm sure they went in with the best intentions...in some cases--inevitably chalk my lack of understanding up to me, not their efforts or ability to communicate with me. I suppose you could say that I value communication in my art. Intentional communication, be it about ideas, emotions or something else entirely.
To this end, Right Before You Fell was sort of the perfect show for yours truly. I must confess that, right up front. This critic is biased. The concert utilized set pieces, spoken dialogue, live music, character, scenario . . . it was very theatrical. People were constantly doing things, not just fulfilling choreography, and acknowledging and responding to one another. Imagine that.
Read about the inspiration for the show here, March 15. Some would have hated it. If I had gone looking for pin-point-perfect technique, or classical movement, or really anything conventional at all, I would have been disappointed. Instead I was uplifted by vignettes about trying to get along with and without people. Between dances, open doorways and closed doors were moved about on rollers by dancers dressed like nuevo gypsies, as they held a kind of movement dialogue with one another. Each had what seemed to be their own character, informing their choices and scenarios. Melissa's acrobalance experience shone through at certain points, particularly to a number choreographed to Tom Waits' "The Piano Has Been Drinking," a piece I was lucky enough to get a preview of at the Kinesis benefit in December (see 12/25/06 for a photo). That section, too, is a good example of one of the best aspects of Right Before You Fell: its sense of humor. I've known Melissa for a while now, so her brand of humor is about as familiar to me as anyone's. RBYF was a great manifestation of unbounded joy for living, and unabashed moments of the surreal.
I could critique some aspects of the show, of course. It irritated me not to have a schedule and titles of the different dances in the program, and I felt as though the end of the evening needed a more significant punctuation, or perhaps clearer imagery of having come full circle (or home, if the notion of taking a walk is to be followed through). But these things may become clear to me after our inevitable Yurtian debriefing. Kate, Patrick, Melissa and I will all gather and surmise, and I'll get the inside skinny on what her specific intentions were. Even without this knowledge, I walked away from the concert feeling fulfilled, and even a little happier about the little unhappinesses in my life at present.
Melissa has extended me an informal invitation to join Kinesis in some performances this summer. (She couches it in the term "movement actor" in deference to my sensitivity about artistic categories.) I hesitate, uncertain about what I can contribute and what I hope to get out of it, but seeing her concert shows me more possibilities for an exciting, empathetic collaboration. It might even be funny.
Hey! We could do excerpts from Guys and Dolls!