Reflecting on where we started as artists and who and what helped us get to where we are now is a part of the creative process. This past Mother’s Day weekend I went to see WoW, an apt title for a performance work that celebrates a love for the sometimes messy, sometimes miraculous, always interesting creative process and those that make it happen performed by the DaNCEBUMS + 6 Families. This performance was a celebration of the ‘thank you’, an experiment in practicing gratitude not just for mothers on Mother’s Day, but for all those that create and nurture.
Whether they are conscious of it or not these dancers understand and communicate through their presence that it is their uniqueness that creates substance…that this art thing is, at it’s most ideal, an expression of attention and real interest no matter the content. Duets, trios, a few momentary solos, occasionally all 5 of them are present in varying ensemble configurations. Quick and engaging phrases playing with balance and controlled stillness, leaps so strong and high the admittedly tiny stage feels too small to contain them. Sharp extensions, quick, easy and playful movements, balletic postures and Graham like grounded undulations….were these movements culled from the favorite recital moments of these artists’ parents and guardians? Or is it the repeated fall, the graceful stumble, the smiling in the face of the misstep, the picking yourself up off the ground and learning from it that was the seed for this physical work? There is a sense of embracing the awkward, even abstracting it.
The 6 Families musicians combine sweetness and dissonance. They are high energy like a garage band with a bit of cozy coffee house thrown in. A bit salty and then sweet…salted caramel ice cream…good sounds not taking themselves too seriously (there’s still plenty of caramel). A kick ass trumpet solo, a wiggly armed duet as Kara Motta and Maggie Zepp duet ballet style with purposefully shaky knees in a lovely and funny off kilter pas de deux more inspired by the living room floor than the proscenium stage. Eben Kowler and Karen McMenamy spin, quick and nimble, like competitive siblings, soaring and attacking each other’s signature moves. I think I’d like to see them dance across an entire football field. Margaret Johnson and Eben are caught in a modern dance wind storm, powerful then abrupt turns and gestures pulled of with eerie specificity despite the casual tone. Margaret in solo, all poetic strength and heartfelt extensions.
“Home is underground”…here is the lyric I remember. I do feel like we are hanging out in the backyard, maybe it’s a birthday barbecue.Now the dancers are filling in the pieces of a photograph, or is it a collage of a few snapshots of long passed choreographic memories from themselves and others? They are supporting each other like sliding doors, or Jenga blocks, casually but precisely, the possibility of the tower falling over is there. A dancer plays at collapse, then they all come together like magnets in awkward and sudden ways. Nostalgia and humor are doing a slow dance together. I see beautiful form and strong images more familial than presentational in their framing.
The general attitude is relaxed, even joyful…exuberance is welcomed. The recorded voicemail of somebody’s mother (I assume one of the artists) plays for a time (paraphrased): ” I love you sweetheart, you are my heart…honey, I’m almost there, I’m driving around the block, on my way”.
There is a repeated falling movement that feels like a clip of a long ago dance recital to me, we are watching the old DVDs at a family gathering, it’s your mom’s favorite part, the camera shakes, the parents hand had slipped because their child tripped but the young somewhat clumsy dancer caught themselves at the last second, were lost for a moment, but kept going despite the flub… and the parent cheers and keeps filming. Everyone watching the past, friends and family, laughs and “oohs” and “ahhs”, some give you a hard time for your weird 90’s hair. The now professional dancer blushes but feels their heart surge, grateful that these people know what they’ve been through…all the good, bad and awkward…and these people will always celebrate the failures as much as the successes. It’s the kind of love that makes you go “WoW”.
DaNCEBUMS + 6 FAMILIES present WOW
Saturday, May 7, 2016 – Sunday, May 8, 2016
Bryant Lake Bowl Theater