Mirror, Mirror: Reflections for 2014

2014 is very nearly the past and it is imperative I take a little time to reflect. The community of art makers here in Kansas City don’t really give a girl much time to breath if she wants to see all the many, many fantastic offerings – not that I’m complaining. So let’s pause a bit and revisit some of the performances that didn’t make it into my professional reviews.

As I’ve thought about this year, it is often a singular moment from a show that pierces my memory, something stunning or personal or vivid.

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June: Memory Palace, Owen/Cox Dance Group and Helen Gillet

I wrote a preview for this performance for The Star, but didn’t review it. Looking back at a piece that explored the hazy, faded, convoluted intricacies of memory, it’s an interesting exercise to consider what has lasted in my own memory’s half-life.

There is a table and around it, in a sepia-toned atmosphere, the dancers are languid, yet restive, exuding humidity and hopelessness. The music, while based on Gillet’s album, has pockets of improvisation, snickerings, pin-point melodies and long bowed lines filtered into a seamless layer. Through various dances, the performers don gauzy draped garments, enhancing and impeding movement the way facts can recast, reform a long held belief. Shadows were silhouetted in murky blue (rising water?). The fun and exhaustion of Run with bouncy, funky knits from Yuli Urano. A beautiful duet between Michael Davis and Holly DeWitt in Julien. Sarah Chun’s gentle solo in De Memoire de Rose. The lyrics and story to Rose.

Best part of the experience: not taking notes, holding my husband’s hand on our last-chance-before-baby date.

August: Entanglement: Black House Improvisers’ Collectives New Operas

Film script turned opera libretti. Good concept, though distracted when film and music weren’t lining up. Renewed appreciation for what a damn fine actor is Bill Murray, the way he – in a fabricated aurally-enhanced silence – takes Scarlett Johansson’s hand.

Took a lot of completely indiscernible notes on the program. There’s some confusion for some of the works, emotion with others. The instrumentation was excellent, full and not too much, did the work. Vocalists did great, considering some of the writing and the demands of the text.

I loved the weirdness and music for Jorge Sosa’s piece.

Sept:

Edgar Meyer: saw him with Chris Thile. I will see him every chance I get. I love the way that man makes music. Also, their contrast in audience banter was adorable.

New Dance Partners:

2nd year. Another fantastic production. Robert Moses’ piece was incredible, both intimate and ferocious, danced by Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company. The gestures were incredibly inventive and stark. Penny Saunders’ work with Owen/Cox Dance Group was laced with nostalgia, beautiful and funny, with a great, comedic male trio contrasting to an elegant Rachel Coats.

Oct:

Owen/Cox Dance Group’s Body of Work. Another impressive concept. There were too many good ideas in this show, some worked, some didn’t. I wish there was a way to get these sort of perfomances workshopped to really hone in on the essence of the production. I loved how the video projection shone on the dancers bodies, with their shadows integrating with the video. And for me there could have been much, much more done with the miked boxed structures the dancers hit. There is something really special in that idea. But the intimacy of the space made it really difficult to experience the piece with continuity. I was either looking at the singer, or watching a dancer, another dancer, the video. I would have loved to have stepped back twenty feet and seen the thing as a whole.

Afterwards was drinks and dessert at The Rieger. Moscow Mule and Honey Pie.

Nov: Voices of Unbound

This was perhaps the best surprise of the year. The charity organization Unbound had an exhibit of photography and music to promote their work in Madagascar. I arrived too early for the show, stopping in on my way to an official review, to find out that one musician was delayed, so perfect timing for me!

The music and photographs were gathered by Barclay Martin and Giuliano Mingucci. The honor they showed the original musicians in their performance was tremendous and the production so successful. Martin, Mingucci and two other musicians set on a stage created from a wall of pallets, behind a scrim. A simple table had a selection of string instruments, a Madagascarian bango, a cigar-box guitar. Mingucci’s snare was draped with a burlap coffee sack. They all wore native printed cotton shirts and woven fedoras.

With the help of a fog machine, they projected video of the original musicians on the scrim while behind it the musicians sang the tunes, all in Malagasy, with bright and nasal, joyous tones.

For one, the KC musicians all stood and played a selection of percussion, while on screen they showed a team of young boys singing with the most unhinged exuberance I’ve seen in forever. Best, hands down.

After the short, 20 minute show, they played some of the selections as the audience filtered out. A young girl danced to the front of the stage, twirling and swirling, the perfect and really only appropriate reaction. (Besides giving generously to the organization to promote educational opportunities for all children.)

Dec:

As a reviewer, I make every effort to acknowledge and subdue my biases for certain works or performers, to take each performance as wholly its own. That being said, perhaps the best 3 minutes of my audience experience this year was watching my three year old perform with his preschool class in their holiday show. And watching him, already a consummate professional, acknowledge the enthusiastic applause with a gracious head nod and perfectly audible “Thank you! Thank you!” after every song.

So that’s the last bit of wind-up for the year. Looking forward to what 2015 will offer.

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