For the past three years, the works-in-progress series Mudson—modeled after the Judson series in New York—has been taking place at the Masonic Temple. This year, Ashley Anderson, director of Ashley Anderson Dances and host of loveDANCEmore, and curator Ishmael Houston-Jones asked five choreographers to complete their previous works-in-progress Mudson pieces and come together for the first ever Daughters of Mudson performance.
The first piece, Chrysalis—choreographed by Rachael L. Shaw and performed by Brooke Musat, Amanda Newman and Shaw—featured just three dancers with no musical accompaniment, but seemed to have a lot to say about contemporary dance as a whole, and perhaps more directly on how dancers are treated within contemporary dance. It began with a single dancer walking slowly back and forth across the dance floor. After some time, she started to motion through a short dance routine, slowly at first, but faster and faster until she became a blaze of movement. As a second dancer entered, similarly walking back and forth before beginning a short dance routine, the first dancer began moving so fast that she finally collapsed altogether—lying there until she caught her breath and then getting up to walk away as a third dancer entered. As the only sounds heard throughout this piece were those made by the dancers themselves, it really made me think about what dancers are put through, and what they put themselves through, in order to put a show together. Certainly, dance is a beautiful art form that has meaning on many levels, but as I watched I wondered if we are pushing dancers too hard for the sake of art.
Wow, Utah—choreographed and performed by Leah Nelson—began with a lovely Édith Piaf song and Nelson’s expressive shoulders. It started with her standing there with her hands in the air and it was amazing. The remainder of the piece featured Nelson transitioning through a variety of dance moves in a variety of dance styles (including what I’m fairly sure was an Irish jig), almost as though she were working the piece together right there in front of you, while talking to the audience in a casual, almost stand-up manner.
For Dorothy—choreographed by Emily Haygeman and performed by Kat Martinez and Nelson—was an expressive piece that featured a segment of read-aloud text written by Haygeman’s grandmother. Martinez moved about the dance floor during the first half of the performance, tearing off sheets of paper from a large pad and dropping them to the ground. As she danced, she moved the pages around the floor. During the second half, Martinez went behind a large frame, where she continued dancing. Then Nelson entered and began taping the dropped pages to the frame, seeming to trap Martinez inside.