Saturday, August 8, 2015

REDCAT's NOW Festival: Program 2: Sammanfläta (Intertwined), BIT, and Circle Jerk

Stina Ahlberg Sammanfläta (Intertwined).
All photos by 
Rafael Hernandez/Calarts

REDCAT debuted an eclectic program of new works this week during its 12th Annual New Original Works Festival – two dance/movement-based pieces and a third that fused theatre and live music to create an absurdist performance art piece based on early twentieth century Surrealism.

Swedish choreographer Stina Ahlberg’s solo dance piece, Sammanfläta (which translates as intertwine) opened the evening. The short 15-minute hypnotic enterprise pairs wind-like sounds with a cappella voices in choral layers to create a haunting work with an otherworldly feel. Ahlberg’s earthy physicality conjures images of a broken bird and the collapsing and unfolding of the spirit as she creeps and crouches and writhes with tactile sensuality.

Mint Park and Hee-Eun Jeong's BIT

In BIT, the interplay between light pools and shadows, synthesized sound, and stylized movement creates a piece that moves propulsively through several stages of storytelling. At times Mint Park and Hee-Eun Jeong’s new work achieves a sharp but beautifully lyrical quality that feels like one is watching a film scene unfold live. I found the opening featuring a solo male dancer (Jung-Woon Jung) spinning and expressively moving with a martial artist’s precision inside that shifting light to be very exciting and a powerful expression of the potential of the piece. Three additional female dancers and abstract modernistic projections expand its multi-layered progression.

Off-putting was the “strobe light” effect consisting of hand-held lights manipulated by the dancers. Too often they were flashed directly into the audiences eyes rather than used to create effects that would have made a greater impact on the visual interpretation of the work.

Robert Cucuzza's Circle Jerk

Following intermission, Robert Cucuzza ventures into the potent world of André Breton and The Surrealists in his theatrical staging of Circle Jerk. The basis of the play is a series of provocative discussions on the topic of sex and sexual perversity led by Breton over a 4-year period beginning in 1928. All of its text comes directly from transcripts of the sessions and no question is off limits.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Circle Jerk is the contrast between its direct and intentionally absurdist humor and the sheer beauty of the subtle jazz trio that accompanies it. (The outstanding original score is by Juli Crockett and Michael Feldman, with Crockett on cello and vocals, Feldman on piano, and Danny Graziani on violin). Fragments of lyric – “she’s just a girl” and “melody haunts my reverie” float in the background while an eye-opening question and answer session delivers the harsh truths about men and women’s roles from the male perspective.

The piece wanders at the midpoint when the interactive group discussion becomes more philosophical and focused on only one individual before snapping back to life when the characters begin a direct address to members of the audience. That discussion probes more taboo questions of erotica in regards to children, animals, and monogamy.


Together the three new works provide a stimulating representation of the kind of adventurous work REDCAT is known for. The final performance for Program 2 is tonight.

REDCAT NOW FESTIVAL
Program 1:  July 30 - August 1, 2015
Bloom - Nguyễn Nguyên and Maria Gillespie
In|Expiration - Sheetal Gandhi, Ulka Mohanty & Mark Gutierrez 
Crying - Zac Pennington, Jherek Bischoff and Steven Reker

Program 2: August 6-8, 2015
Sammanfläta (Intertwined) - Stina Ahlberg 
BIT - Mint Park and Hee-Eun Jeong
Circle Jerk - Robert Cucuzza

Program 3:  August 13-15, 2015
Stellar Tears - Cassandra 
Touch of the Other - Takao Kawaguchi, Jonathan Hall & Deanna Erdmann
Trophy - Kevin Williamson

REDCAT is located at 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 in the heart of downtown Los Angeles on the northeast corner of the intersection of W. 2nd and Hope Streets. Housed in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, REDCAT has a separate entrance at the corner of West 2nd and Hope Streets. Tickets and information: (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org. Performances begin at 8:30 pm.

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