Daughters of Mudson @ the Rose Wagner Studio Theatre

Posted June 27, 2013 in ,

(L-R) Sterling Anderson and Kylie Lloyd reach up in the first segment of Choreographer Katherine Adler's Temporary Triptych. Photo: Katie Meehan
Last Friday, loveDANCEmore curated the second annual Daughters of Mudson, which was housed by the Studio Theatre of the Rose Wagner. As I entered the space, there was energy about the event’s production that I sensed early on—it was practiced, and it has matured into a something that’s becoming integral to the Salt Lake City art scene—and, also, a respite from the large, sometimes overbearing atmosphere of the contemporaneous Utah Arts Festival. For some reason, I’m wary of watching dance at the Rose Wagner because I’m afraid that, though the choreography of most loveDANCEmore productions transcends banality compared to what I’ve seen in dance elsewhere, the meta-theatrical environment might suppress the artists’ ingenuity. As I looked over the program to see that the usual (in my experience) explanations of each choreographer’s dance were omitted, I slowly—and pleasantly—found that my fears were unfounded.
After setting up four standing lights as attendees filed in, Tara McArthur and Efren Corado Garcia entered the stage and formed a diagonal oriented to front stage left to perform Skewered, which they also choreographed. I loved their costumes—McArthur wore black-and-white tights with shorts over them and a blue turtleneck, and they built their dance slowly as Corado would break into glowsticking-like movements with his arms and hands, building and breaking rapidly. McArthur held a light to highlight Corado while moving, then joined in and transferred the light to Corado; McArthur performed on her feet in a teetering way, which reminded me of fall leaves, and the musical score changed to a song that included baby talk. McArthur and Corado entered a courtyard comprised of the four standing lights at back stage left and danced within it, sometimes stepping out. (One of the lights wouldn’t turn on, but I think that it added to the performance, making it a mysteriously missing link to the border). It was here that exhibited how well McArthur and Corado choreograph and dance together, and where I noted how much Corado has come into his own in the movement he creates. They rearranged the lights in a line from back stage left to front stage right and mirrored each other with their backs to one another, working the their barrier on their feet and with their backs to each other. They weaved in figure eights through the four lights in way that made them seem as if they were walking a sketchy rope bridge as the musical score included birds chirping over what seemed like pipa instrumentation. I loved this piece, and found it to be my favorite dance of the evening, as the tone was somber yet energetic, and the dancers’ use of light was executed in an aesthetically pleasing way—whether it was the four candlestick-like standing lights or the standard floor light that they carried around initially. I also liked that they didn’t let their lighting props overpower the dance, but subsumed them synergistically.
Though the aforementioned dance was my favorite, the great thing about Mudson showcases is that the types of dances that come through its showcases are vastly different, and can thus be appealing to anyone’s sensory faculties. Additionally, one meta-performative move that Ashley Anderson (Director of Ashley Anderson Dances and loveDANCEmore events host) made was introducing Daughters after the first performance. I thought that this was a small but effective way to talk about the showcase in a way where the audience was already hooked by Skewered in a Lyotardian sublime sort of way.
Next came point b, which, in the program, is described as “an improvisational dance/game” by Josie Patterson-Halford. She began the performance at back stage right in way that seemed like she was on film in slow motion. She comported her hands as if they were saying “Halt!” and moved about the stage on her feet. The whirlwind way she moved her upper body made it seem as if she was tracing the inner periphery of a bowl. Later, she positioned her arm behind her back in a way akin to yoga, and lunged amid her twirls. She removed her sweater, and a track played over the speakers, which was a poem from a woman to her hypothetical daughter—this text being by Sarah Kay—which eventually saw Patterson-Halford minimizing her arm gestures as if she was shaping and moving an-Other bowl, and she would swing her arms. This piece was interesting to watch, and I enjoyed Patterson-Halford’s dance in that it was oriented toward being on her feet and swiveling with her arms. Also, Patterson-Halford’s selection of “Ash/Black Veil” by Apparat was a good choice—I liked its post-rock/post-hardcore undertones amid its minimalist candor. I think that with the text by Kay, she should re-record it with another speaker, as it was overly emphatic, which came across as cheesy for me. All in all, this was a lovely dance to watch, and I would love to be cued in as to how this “game” works!
Choreographer Katherine Adler’s piece followed, titled Temporary Triptych, which was a work on which she collaborated with performers Florian Alberge, Sterling Anderson, Molly Heller and Kylie Lloyd. Lloyd and Sterling began the piece in a duet, initiating the audience to the costume motif: denim. These two dancers proficiently executed understated dance with subtle, casual moves—or “not dancing,” as I’ve heard it. They jumped and jogged about, and Sterling performed motions like he was skateboarding. They engaged each other as if they were on an awkward date, sometimes mirroring each other’s gaze, and Sterling, at one point, took Lloyd by the hand and they waltzed around the floor with her. When I first saw this piece at a Mudson showcase at the Masonic temple, this segment was the entirety of the piece, and it was a little too Wes Anderson for me. Adler has successfully rounded this dance out, though, by adding the other two segments to this triptych. Though I detest Bob Dylan, I felt like the musical scoring worked here, as Lloyd and Sterling performed to “All I Really Wanna Do” by Dylan with the lyric “All I wanna do is maybe be friends with you,” which underpinned the awkward-date vibe. Adler’s musical scoring continued with Dylan, and “Man on the Street (outtake)” introduced Alberge. Alerge wrenched around the stage on his feet, and looked as if he was performing ballet, but having a seizure. He fell down and rose, and looked to the audience and opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, but he remained silent. Heller entered to Dylan’s “Leopard Print Pill Box Hat,” and bunny-hopped about the stage with her hands pointed by her sides. She danced like she was at a rock show in the ’70s and would kick her feet in the air, and would drag her foot and smile at the audience. It seemed as though she was cast in the role of a tease, which highlighted the characters that each dancer played. Adler really brought this piece come to fruition, and I like the way she went with it. For me, it is a work that generates Americana nostalgia in a similar way that alt-country music does.
Eileen Rojas’ dance, Mi Corazón, ensued, in which she performed alongside Nathan Shaw with music by Trevor Price. Rojas and Shaw sat side by side on chairs as text played over the speakers, asking what love is, and questioning what actually constitutes a person. The text referred to the blood flowing in the female speaker’s body as Rojas pointed to her sternum then her stomach, finger by finger, tracking her hands along this line that she’d drawn, which reminded me of D’Alembert’s Dream by Denis Diderot. She fell off her chair, got up, and she and Shaw would repeat this motion throughout the dance. A male voice eventually entered the text asking, “Where am I from?” as Rojas cradled his head on her shoulder, both sitting down—Shaw eventually sat on Rojas’ lap. The answer to the question, per the text, was “from nowhere.” Rojas sat on Price’s lap; lay on his lap; then hugged him atop his lap—this move correlated with the existential-minded text, as if she were a child seeking comfort. Shaw lifted Rojas onto a chair, and the female-spoken text delineated that somebody can veritably know their self through the act of love. A song in Spanish then played as the two repeated the motion of pointing down the sternum to the stomach standing on the chairs. I had a lukewarm reaction to this piece—I had seen Rojas perform it at a regular Mudson event as a solo, and I feel that it was more effective in that manifestation, as the obvious connection to her Latina background was more prominent devoid of another person of, I assume, a different ethnic identity. The “from nowhere” comment from the male-spoken text evinced the idea of white Americans not having a sense of racial-ethnic lineage to contrast with Rojas’ clear demarcation of her heritage, and the female-spoken text did refer to her Latina background as being in the past and somewhat bygone. This emphasized their mutual situation in the space, which brought the question of what a person really is—given their cultural history—to the forefront, as supplied by the contrasting situations that the genders of the text applied to each dancer. I, however, think that the dancing between the two people onstage was not involved enough to fully let these two personae play out in a way that elucidated how love allows a person to come into their own. In my opinion, the two dancers onstage need to engage each other more intimately (if this piece is to be a duet), or should exist and flourish as a solo.
Ashley Anderson then brought out her troupe, which included Corado, Katie Meehan and Corinne Penka in a hodgepodge collection of sweaters and acid-wash-looking daisy dukes with a cool pattern dyed in (which I couldn’t discern) to perform Neils. I’ve heard Ashley joke about, instead of making dances, how she’d like to be in a band. She actually has a method where she translates a “band” structure into dance in a fun way—as Meehan performed her solo, Ashley, Corado and Penka performed in unison as a type of back beat, at one point freezing their legs on the ground in a cross between a yogic pigeon pose and distilled scissor kick. They’d sit with their arms extended out to the sides, moved in jumping jacks (minus the jumping), spin around, flap their wings and reach with their hands. The conceit for this piece was that each song was by a band whose namesake includes Neil: “Calendar Girl” and “Oh, Carol” by Neil Sedaka, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond, and “Love is a Rose” and “Helpless” by Neil Young. Each dancer performed a solo—Meehan flew around the stage, Ashley karate kicked and twirled, Penka swam and tightrope walked, and Corado took on a B-boy-like routine—all while the backing “band” repeated themselves until they broke to change soloists. I had fun watching this dance, and I liked it, as with everything I've seen Ashley make! Although I felt like “Helpless” didn’t really match the upbeat pace of the dance, ultimately, Anderson showed once again that making dances doesn’t have to be packed with lofty philosophy and can be presented to an audience in an accessible way. That’s not to say that her dances are of the pre-cheerleading, talent-show ilk you saw in eighth grade, but that she knows how to make dances that are direct AND smart. Oh yeah, and I was kind of in my chair rocking out a bit, too!
After the performance, I took a look at the notes I put into my phone about the show. “Back stage right slow mo/Inner periphery of bowl”—I could say that these words were “poetry,” but if they were, they would be really bad poetry. But Daughters of Mudson—the facilitator of these notes—was really good, which solidifies that dance imparts spectacles into our psyches that other mediums cannot. I was impressed and surprised by this year’s Daughters, and look forward to the next Mudson season coming this fall.
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(L-R) Sterling Anderson and Kylie Lloyd reach up in the first segment of Choreographer Katherine Adler's Temporary Triptych. Photo: Katie Meehan (Front to back) Ashley Anderson, Corinne Penka, Efren Corado and Katie Meehan instill a rock n' roll attitude into Ashley's piece, Neils. Photo: Samuel Hanson