More on “Glassy Essence”

Many bloggers, including Philip, Matt, and Tonya, have already shared their thoughts on Cedar Lake’s “360-degree interactive piece”, and I encourage you to visit their blogs. But I decided to write a little more about the evening, as well.

The majority of viewers tended to shift away from the dancers, perhaps fearing that they would be in the way as the company members wove in and out of the clusters of people that filled the large space. It would have been interesting to see more people interact with the dancers, or maybe even intentionally walk in their path. In concert dance, we are so used to having a defined barrier between audience and stage, so that once there is an opportunity to break that barrier, we still tend to stay within our comfort zone because we are unsure of the “right” or “wrong” way to engage with the dancers. Of course, there is no right or wrong. The beauty of being in such close proximity of the dancers is the ability to improvise and just see what happens. Every performance will be different, which is why I’m hoping to see Glassy Essence again.

There was often a central couple, soloist, or group of dancers on which the audience focused, while other dancers performed elsewhere in the space, usually in dimmed lighting. I enjoyed watching the less central dances because I was interested in seeing what artistic director and choreographer Benoit-Swan Pouffer had in mind for the “background” movement, which reminds me of my tendency during a ballet performance to watch the corps de ballet even while a lead couple is dancing center stage. And with so much to take in at once, it was nice to wander around and catch glimpses of everything, rather than focusing on one part of the space for a prolonged period of time. In a way, the installation felt like a moving museum, with the “exhibits” constantly changing.

One of my favorite parts of the installation was the wall of blocks – a large flat wall with 3-dimensional blocks of different sizes attached to it. The dancers sat or stood on the blocks, hung from them, and gracefully connected to other dancers’ limbs, all while creating interesting shapes and sculptures with their bodies. It effectively illustrated how a flat, 2-dimensional wall can become a three-dimensional playground that evolves as the dancers navigate its space.

In fact, the piece explored as much space as possible with the help of flying contraptions, the wall, a table, and little square blocks on the floor. Swan excels at experimenting with different surfaces, and figuring out how the dancers can work with (and against) them.

It was refreshing to snap photos throughout the performance (I took over 100), and I’m glad that the company encouraged viewers to do so. There was even a photo sharing booth, where viewers could upload photos after the performance and then let Cedar Lake post them on its website. Some of mine and Allison’s, as well as several from other bloggers, can be seen here. Another high-tech highlight of the evening was the USB bracelet, which Allison photographed on my wrist in her post. The performance was video-recorded and then uploaded to flash drives. On our way out, the bloggers and I each received a USB bracelet with an entire video of the performance. Of course, a video cannot capture the multi-dimensionality of a live performance. And in this case, the video shows the installation from the video-recorder’s perspective. However, it’s still exciting to be able to re-live parts of the performance on video, and I applaud Cedar Lake for being so innovative and progressive with their use of technology.

Glassy Essence was certainly memorable and impressive, and I was shocked to hear from Swan that the company only had three intense weeks of rehearsals. Performances continue this weekend and May 1-3 at 8 PM and 9 PM. Ticket info is here.

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One Response to More on “Glassy Essence”

  1. Philip says:

    Yes, when Swan said they put this together in three weeks I was really amazed.

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