I’ve never written a blog post before. I usually talk about a show after I see it, but the most I’ve ever done in writing has been to send a congratulatory email to the cast or director. So this is a little weird for me. Tonight I saw Justin Jones and Maggie Bergeron’s work at the Southern. Let me start by saying that I’m blessed to live in a city with so much talent. The choreographers, dancers, musicians, and technicians are freakishly talented, and the support of the Walker, Southern, and Jerome Foundation is invaluable.
Okay, I’ll start at the beginning. That seems appropriate. The first thing I noticed was that Jeff Bartlett was nervous giving his curtain speech. I wondered why. I have seen him give similar speeches numerous times before, so what’s with the nerves. Oh, there’s Elliot Durko Lynch walking across the stage during his speech. My eyes are following him, veering off of Jeff, then back to the speech. Oh, then there are more dancers interrupting Jeff’s speech by entering in the light while he’s talking. This wonderfully distracting. And as soon as my eyes go back to Jeff, at the exact moment he is just about to wrap up his speech, chaos erupts on stage in a bang. Extremely loud music and voracious movement interrupt Jeff’s speech. No wonder he was nervous.
I love interruptions. I do. I think much of life is nothing but a series of interruptions. Well, not nothing, but if I had the option of interruptions or transitions, I’d take interruptions every time.
The chaos continued and then there was a calm. A respite from the noise. The sound of the dancers breathing was captivating, their frenetic movements now changed to be more languid, then another change. I love sudden changes in the direction of energy. I do.
There were also some wonderful moments of cause and effect. I love those too.
I didn’t read anything, other than what was in the program, or talk to anyone about this piece before I saw it, and I wish I had. After reading Justin’s blog entry I understand more of what he was going for, but during the show I was confused. After the big bang of the beginning, I had a hard time following what was going on. Maybe that’s just the “ theater guy” in me, but I often didn’t understand who the dancers were portraying, what they wanted, or what their relationships were. The dancers conveyed emotion with their bodies, but generally their bodies didn’t seem connected to their faces. Although the subject seemed to be a scientific exploration, I thought of how excited I get thinking about the cosmos or the creation of the universe, the thrilling feeling of when riding in a plane as it takes off, or looking up at the stars in awe. I missed those bits of magic that science and physics deal with.
Some things that emerged in the piece that really worked for me at various times in the piece were the dancers precision with complex movement, a sense of surrender, repetition, surprise, variations on theme, and revelation.
Maggie Bergeron’s House/Home was next, and after watching the stage crew carefully pull the last little house into place, I wondered how delicate they really were. I soon found out.
The lights came on inside those little homes, and I could’ve watched the dancers live in them for a long time. There was a lot to take in, and the structures were all so unique. Not soon after, they were destroyed by their inhabitance and then followed an exploration of House/Home. I saw hiding, turmoil, freedom, and mourning. I saw dancers behave as birds, and wondered what our homes must look like from their perspective. I saw dancers try to put the destruction of their homes back in order, and that makes me think of Katrina, and other devastations that rob people of their homes. This is a bit different, because the dancers destroyed their own homes and they seemed to make that choice. I saw roads that led to the same place, a desire for ownership, a struggle to connect, and a sense that we are all connected.
Overall, the piece was a super interesting intellectual exploration of leaving home, returning to it, making one of your own, and realizing that we all have that desire. House and Home are super emotionally charged words for me and I longed to see that emotional context in the performance. However, music helped create that context, I missed it in the performers relationships to one another.
All the dancers, musicians, technicians, and choreographers have obviously worked incredibly hard to put this weekend together. I’m so happy to have seen their ambitions come to fruition on the Southern’s beautiful stage and look forward to seeing more from Justin, Maggie, and all the extremely talented performers in the future.