It wasn’t always this way. Do you remember when we met? Inside Volta Collective’s SALT, the tension between Medea and Jason envelops the room. Actors Ellington Wells and August Gray Gall portray the warring lovers, rebuilt as temperamental artists within Los Angeles’ gallery scene. They color the atmosphere around them, thick with animosity. Volta choreographer/director duo Megan Paradowski and Mamie Green as well as dancers Ryley Polak and Marirosa Crawford pepper the room as well, each embodying an element of Medea and Jason’s hostile attraction.
Melissa Achten and Eli Klausner on harp and balalaika construct a soundscape that feels hauntingly dangerous in the close quarters of 2220 Arts + Archives, and the audience mills about the madness. Among them lay pieces of edible installation art, small bites constructed by Heidi Ross and sous chef Chantael Takeuchi with assistance from Will Green. Each bite represents a major player — one for The Innocents, one for young Medea, one for Jason, and one for Medea, murderer. Each bite is a delicious manifestation of sensory notes created by the Institute for Art and Olfaction for an earlier iteration of this work called Milk.
SALT is a true full-body experience. Jason and Medea split the audience into two, each telling their side of the story until a culminating monologue from each brings your loyalty into question. Can you blame me? they ask. Text by Wells and Sammy Loren ropes you into the conflict; it is impossible to remain impartial. Above all, the movement morphs the atmosphere into an enthralling reality, grounded in the human experience but contorted by suspicion and paranoia. Disorientation has never been more luscious.
Paradowski and Green achieve a balance of musculature and sensitivity in their choreography that makes every motion luxe, a treat to witness. Polak contributes a slinky malleability, and Crawford a thoughtful softness. Movement direction for Wells and Gray Gall successfully achieves authenticity by rooting in emotion and making smart use of gravity. As players, Green and Paradowski quietly command the room with their presence.
This realm holds abundant possibilities for audience experience. Hear Medea’s side of the story or return to the living room as a quarrel turns shouting match. Observe Jason as he scratches objects against the dinner table, feeding scathing noises into Klausner and Achten’s score. Find Crawford in a corner, exploring give and take with the wall. Bite into Takeuchi’s foraged loquat and apricot mochi daifuku with toasted soy and cinnamon, feeling the scent and flavors whispered into Medea’s essence.
I am no food critic, but a short stint in college working in fine dining points me toward good food often, and this exceeded expectations by far. Expertly sourced ingredients like Smallhold mushrooms and Bub & Grandma’s bread take Ross’ gorgeous creations an extra mile.
SALT is not just built for the traditional dance audience, which for me feels bold and hopeful. Its many moving pieces draw an absolutely compelling story that folds dance into the center. Seeing quality dance become accessible to more than just lifelong dancers with advanced movement vocabulary is wildly exciting. As the audience wanders, they begin to take on the motivations of the dance, feeling deeply as Volta communes with the setting in shapes, senses, sounds. For a moment, the dance is all that matters.
For more information about Volta Collective, please visit their website.
To learn more about 2220 Arts + Archives, please visit their website.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Volta Collective – SALT – full cast, including harpist, composer Melissa Achten – Photo by Katy Shayne