Whimsical landscapes changed dramatically from room to room, ranging from a dark space with abstract mountainous projections to underwater ruins adorned with floating jellyfish, which were only to be glimpsed for a moment before being whisked away briskly by the performers, deeper and deeper into this alien world. There was hardly enough time to take in the intricate details of the rooms and halls. As the dancers gently, but firmly pushed us on, I was left with only slivers of a story that was unfolding. I tried to read the long passages written on some of the walls, but only retained words like “Eva,” “clouds,” “falling,” and “moon.” As soon as my mind began to latch onto meaning, it was ripped away by the next cacophonous scene. The experience was overwhelming, and I wished I had more time to digest the minor details. The pace felt too rapid to fully comprehend the idiosyncrasies of the world I was exploring.
At times, I felt like the performers were an integral part of the world, and at others, it felt like one work of art superimposed on another. In a few scenes, the performers felt distinctly separate from the landscapes. The first room was a poignant example of artistic integration. Smooth movements with angular shapes seemed to emerge from the jagged, mountainous outlines projected on the walls. The dance was made for that space. In another room, psychedelic neon designs adorned variously sized boxes that appeared to move in shifting light. These severe flashing colors overshadowed the dancers who were gently moving on and around the boxes. The juxtaposition made the performers appear unassuming, and as though they were stuck in a world that swallowed them whole.
Throughout the work, I tried to understand what role the dancers were playing in this dream. Were they fairies urgently guiding us through an unknown world? Were they friends exploring alongside me? Did they possess knowledge that I was being guided towards? What role as an audience member was I playing in this experience? I left the performance with many questions, and I hungered for answers. I could easily attend this performance many times, hoping to get a clearer picture. There were infinite nooks and crannies to uncover. I found myself saddened that the dancers would only be performing this work for a week. I wished that as a limited-time performance, I would have had more time to take in the beautiful story that had been created. There was so much detail in not only the installations and the dancing, but also in the storyline, of which I only glimpsed hints. I think this would be a more effective show if it could be extended for multiple weekends or seasons.
I was grateful to be able to attend the post-performance discussion, where some of my questions were answered. The roles of the dancers, of the audience, and the pacing of the work were addressed there. What I thought was particularly engaging was the discussion of the artistic possibility of immersive performance. Would the work be more effective if it were a self-guided performance? Would the audience have absorbed more detail? Would it have been better if guided at a slower pace? Ultimately, their choice of having a fast-paced performance served a purpose: I left grasping at details of a dream; piecing together the memories that remained.
This article is published in collaboration with loveDANCEmore.org.
Meredith Wilde (she/her/they/them) is a dance artist based in Salt Lake City who received a BFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah. In addition to ballet and contemporary, Wilde has trained in Bharatanatyam technique and performed with Chitrakaavya Dance in Salt Lake City, UT.