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'Particular': A Poetic Experience of Life in Motion

by Natasha Brooks-Sperduti

October 26, 2012 -- Providence, RI

Lostwax has an inextricable power to link all parts of their work - sound, projection, and dance - each layer being equally considered, mastered, and carefully interwoven. This couldn’t be more true than in Particular, which premiered October 26-28, 2012 in Providence, RI as part of FirstWorks festival.

In their work, music is not music anymore. It is not the expected soundtrack for dance, instead becoming much more abstract. Music becomes sound, and once it is paired down as such, its power is renewed. Sound becomes environment, or soundscape. As such, we the audience, and they, the dancers, occupy a shared space of sensation and experience.

The projection, in this case linear drawings in white and black, speak directly to the sound. Concentric circles illustrate echo and reverb; the ripple wave motion of sound and energy. A heart monitor connects sound with body, then expands, collapses, stretches to create a forest of verticals. Later, lines break down and we see discrete particles- dots like starscapes, minnows, starlings- individual bodies moving on and in fluid waves of water, wind, energy, emotion.

Since stripping down, reconnecting and weaving together is their specialty, it is fitting that Jamie Jewett, director of Lostwax, has chosen to make a piece about parts and wholes. Of Particular, Jewett writes, “How is the individual simultaneously unique and anonymously part of a compelling whole?” This question is repeatedly worked and re-worked throughout the piece. In Particular, Jewett offers layers of experience in answer: of being at once embodied and energetic; of being a discrete particle-like individual; of being flowing and expansive like a wave or a sea of people.

Particular has a cast of 6 dancers, half men, half women, with bodies ranging from muscular to willowy, curvy to angular. The dance asks you to leave your expectations of the medium at the door. Rather, you are encouraged to think of it as movement, and in doing so, the true poetic meaning of gesture opens up. These are not ballerinas. This is not theater. These are not characters or actors. These are individuals. And the work is compelling because of this honesty. Jewett and his dancers have created art out of their experience of navigating this world. In this aspect only, Particular feels particularly familiar.

Numerous images and sensations from the piece are particularly noteworthy:

• A loose circle of individuals, frozen mid-motion. Urban rain sounds like drops from a gutter in an alley. Spurting, irregular jolts of industrial noise meet white concentric circles that flash on bodies and feet, taking dancers down one by one.

• Projections invert to black on white, scrolling left to right like language or the inside of a music box. Bodies evoke typewriter buttons- standing, pressed, slack, and prone, waiting...

• Moving in a pack, not in unison, not not in unison. Now and again a dancer is empowered to affect the group with spinning, wind-like motion. This temporal leadership dies away, and they return to the same status as the rest of the flock.

• Standing in lunge, arms hang like loose levers, swinging away and toward, the occasional elbow jutting up like a human wave. Some are affected, others not, and not all are affected in the same way. This is the way of the world.

• Between dances are full color videos. Closely cropped, we see feet in a cluster moving sideways, awkwardly together. Is it a parallel universe, or what this performance might look like without the extra information, without the sign / symbol of the sound and projected line? Here, each medium teaches us to see the other more fully.

• In a forest of gyrating vertical lines, an up-tempo conga rhythm calls dancers in. Entering on tiptoe, straight-legged like sand pipers, necks turning, abrupt, birdlike…

Onto the first sustained solo of the evening; Ali Kenner Brodsky on stage. Glimpses of Brodsky glimmer thru lines on the back wall. Poignant gestures punctuate fluid choreography, hinting at intention and individual choice. A catch of her wrist, she re-routes her own motion. With a long deliberate wipe, she extracts something from the nape of her neck. We are witness to a private moment of will. An arced arm creates shape, the other sweeps a circle toward... She is incorporating, digesting, feeling through something. Moving slowly as if listening, she is still guided by invisible forces - personal, internal. Suddenly she is pointing, tip of finger pulls her forward, down. The next video is a hand, the organ of action, of individual desire. A single dancer watches hers move as though they are foreign objects.

• Later, dance duets show lovely, satisfying connection. Behind the line projection is a fast moving pendulum drawing. An invisible but palpable energy between dancers propels the motion.

• Joseph Nicastro is alone on the stage with foreboding music. Behind him, white particles with a dense center, a magnetic pull… He does a dance of creation as they form shape, line. Architecture appears.

• Reverb organ music with a photo negative projection in blue: a dreamlike confluence. Again, reality echoes from stage to projection: two visions, like a reflection, or a picture of the inner self. Hand motions are familiar- what we earlier saw in video is now live. Concentric circles return, as do some gesture themes. What is stored in the body, in the psyche? Here, past experience exists as vibration, as echo, beautiful and mesmerizing.

• Enter the group. Recognize their feet like déjà vu. Now we share collective memory with the body of the ensemble. Moments of synchronicity are always fleeting. Dancers affect one another, yet remain singular. This is what it feels like to be human in relationship.

• Projection returns to particulates, but now they are living- schools of minnows, clouds of starlings. With piano alongside the sound of gulls, the dancers, at long last, move in unison with a sense of freedom. Fantastic.

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