Non and Missa’s Playground: Syniva Whitney responds to Monkey Bar

“Pregame Delight: Espresso & Tequila & Oolong”

Synchronized movements. Leaps and bursts of unison that would be at home in a basketball game’s half time show. For a moment the three dancers, Non Edwards, Missa Kes and special guest Holo Lue Choy, appear to be looking into themselves from the inside out. Movements are now suddenly in disarray. Arms swinging like possible aftershocks to an unknown imagination find release there. Spastic and rolling shoulders. Black leggings, sparkly tank tops, tennis shoes…this is a trio sure to keep you awake on the road after 3 AM.

“Hors D’oeuvre: I Want to Fight a Polar Bear”

It is clear I ate my food in the wrong order. I could never tell the difference between my soup spoon and a serving spoon. Price: the fun and nauseating feeling of mixing tequila with any caffeinated beverage (see above)

“Soup: Hard Hitting Journalism”

This tastes like an interview with special guest Holo Lue Choy. Holo is in a constant state of movement while answering Non’s rapid fire questions about their life. Non is now a journalist a la a 1940s style intrepid reporter, hat and all. Missa now navigates the space like a caterpillar documenting Holo with a camera, black hoodie up, a possible paparazzi. From Holo: “the three friends I had at my old school transferred to the St Paul Performing Arts Conservatory….so I followed them there. ” Holo on what inspired them to go to a performing arts school: ” I’m interested in anything other than instrumental music. I want to experience everything I can but I never want to play the flute again”. We learn Holo is an apprentice at Ananya Dance Theater where they are training in techniques that blend contemporary and classical Indian dance and other art forms including martial arts.

“Appetizer: Her Mother’s Husband”

Missa and Non. Hugging happens, all kinds of hugs, then speaking begins. This is a duet. Bits of spoken phrases that sound like prompted memories. No way to tell if they are real or fake: “There was that time I used to”…”I walked in on my parents once”…”I had a math teacher that would look at students in a really inappropriate way”….”My brother told me my parents were pickles”….”My brother used to steal money from me”. They are dancing but then it is wrestling…then it’s slow motion partnering with stretched faces that look angry. Non’s mouth opens wide (teeth bared) yelling but no sound comes out. There is a spectacular shoulder lift.

“Salad: Marth and Pat and Erin”

The three performers stand in a circle playing the improvisational game of speaking and singing the same thing at the same time even thought they don’t know who will say what. Wackiness ensues.

“Sorbet: Two For One”

This might have been the appetizer but it tasted more like sorbet. Holo Lue Choy is a true force of nature. They are an emerging mix of youthful energy, imaginative decisions and technical skills that defy any dance style but appear flavored with ballet, Odissi and voguing. A graceful punk capable of being immersed in the art at hand. I look forward to seeing more from this artist.

“Fish: The Resuscitation”

I think the kitchen mixed up my order again because I thought this dance suddenly became a high school play reading, but Holo begins to jump off the risers, climb the walls and balance on unstable looking tables and shaky chairs while reading a scene with Missa and Non. Non handed out hard copies on white paper to the other 2 players and 2 audience members…there is a lot of audience laughter…the reading is hokey and loud, the dancers stand in a line side by side. Waiter, there’s a play in my dance.

“Entree: Flock Rebel Fam”

Mirroring with occasional bursts of arms gently spreading sprinkled throughout always headed in the same direction, more rolling, soft melancholy journeys through the empty restaurant din.


“Dessert: Goodnight, Playground”

A ritual for the now, the end, something they’ve done before. Someone wins the raffle and wins a dance or a tacky candle holder. A goodnight song for the audience, a song that leaves with the dancers as they exit, the raffle winner goes with them, they are a part of the show, the trio is a quartet willingly or not. A bell rings, it’s funny. They continue to sing as the go down the back hallway, out of sight. The singing continues as they go down the back stairs and deep down into the basement below us.

The writing above is based on the menu the performers shared for this performance first on the Facebook event page and then on a large menu chalk board in the space. Throughout the performance a dancer would cross off each line of text (the single line of menu related to what had come before…that’s the text preceding my responses in each blurb above). The board moved around the space after each course was served. This was awkward and captivating in the sleepy pre snow emergency weekday evening of Tuesday December 29th at the Bedlam Lowertown in St Paul. I entered bundled and just in time, sitting at a cafe table, the sound of people ordering drinks and food behind me. I wondered what kind of dance I would be consuming.

The artists maintained the energy of play throughout the show. Clearly Monkey Bar is an exciting chance for dancers and other artists to experiment with techniques they are curious about (most tactics at play in this evening’s show felt improvisational) and new ideas they’ve been wanting to try out and play with in front of a easy going crowd of friends and curious attendees. Part cabaret, part open dance rehearsal, part playing in the back yard at your teenage best friends house. A fun, open-hearted, un-self conscious experiment in what a dance residency can be in a supportive public space.

The choreographer in me wondered what improvisational techniques were at play here? Who’s desires led to the structure the showing took? Was every sharing in this series restaurant theme related? I had the sense these artists were trying out the new, the half baked, the unrehearsed, bits of dreams and bits of new work growing from conversations and experiments. The focus was on process and not product, possibility and not performance. I wondered: does an offering of weekly public showings nourish the work of these artists? Perhaps there is not enough time spent considering the possible ways the site might inform the work they develop in the space. There was an energy of potential present and I wonder what will develop from this project as the residency continues on through February. Bedlam Lowertown (the artists mentioned the specific support of Maren Ward, one of the space’s founders, as being very supportive in inviting them to try out the idea) offers a unique venue for Twin Cities artists that want to attempt to play with the way we usually consume, present and plan performance. Missa and Non wanted to try something fun and they’ve done it. Monkey Bar is a low stakes, spontaneous and playful dance residency.


Monkey Bar

At Bedlam Lowertown

Featuring Missa Kes and Non Edwards w/ special guest Holo Lue Choy

7pm Tuesday December 29th, 2015


Photo by Scott Pakudaitis.




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