The REDCAT closed its 15th Annual NOW (New Original Works) Festival with three very individual works that had one thing in common; they each used movement with some form of multi-media. Rachel Mason and Oguri incorporated film and light projections; Jay Carlon used taped together and miked sections of cardboard; and Christine Marie used shadows enlarged through 3-D technology. All the elaborate bells and whistles were there, but overall it was not the most exciting program of the three-week festival.

Rachel Mason is a Los Angeles artist, musician and filmmaker whose work is said to “challenge authority and question reality”. Oguri is an acclaimed dancer and choreographer whose work is highly influenced by the Japanese Butoh art form and who often collaborates with artists from all genres to create evening long solos. Here, Mason and Oguri joined their talents with interactive media/video designer Shih-Iien Eugene Yen to create Singularity Song.

Mason was inspired by her conversations with scholars and theorists about the “physics of black holes and the poetics of visualizing such immense phenomena”. A black hole is “a region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing—not even particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from inside it”, and from everything I have read, it crushes whatever is sucked into it. Except for one moment when Oguri artfully crumpled into a small heap, I saw no evidence of anything or anyone being crushed. There was, to be fair, a section of film where Oguri appears to float through a swirling mass of black satin fabric.

Singularity Song was filled with beautiful images. Oguri’s misshapen moves and his floating through a vast universe were magical and thought provoking, as were seeing a fiery universe swirl and grow around Oguri’s chest as he sat guru like on the floor. Watching a solid white grid on the backdrop adjacent to its wavy reflection on the stage floor was interesting and the beautifully filmed close-ups of Oguri’s face, eyes and ears were also very nice to observe. Confusing, however, was the creature that Mason became as she entered donning a white, conch shell-like headdress and white make up to sing words that were mostly inaudible because of being poorly miked or the volume turned up too high. Who was this creature, where did she come from and why was she there? The song did not help solve any of this, nor did her dress/robe being lifted into the ethers.

Mason and Oguri did alter or attempt to distort reality, and they did make me think about what all their images represented. I came away thinking that Singularity Song was more about the mysteries of time, space and creation than it was about the physics of a black hole.

During intermission the house crew handed out red framed 3-D glasses necessary to properly view Christine Marie’s Shadow in Stereo: Antiquated A.R. Marie is a creator of “light, installations, performances and experiences” who has customized instruments to produce 30-foot shadows that appear to dance on the heads of those seated in front of you.

Although I did once recoil as a dancer’s hand seemed to sharply reach out to grab my face, the novelty of Marie’s creation quickly wore thin because the “magic” of how she created these illusions was right there in plain view. Nor did she fully develop her ideas. Perhaps if the tools that she used and the personnel executing them were not so visible throughout, this illusion would have prevailed a bit longer, but the dancing shadows repeated the same motions over and over and we could see how the textures were created. One very interesting moment, however, was when a dancer’s 3-D shadow lay down over the audience in front of me, blocking my view of the action taking place on the stage. This was a wonderful “illusion” because how does a shadow obstruct one’s view? Another was when a large shadow appeared to jump through the circular arms of a dancer and straight into my lap.

Rachel Mason and Oguri_Sinularity SongPhoto Vanessa Crocini resized Rachel Mason and Oguri_ Singularity Song1Photo Vanessa Crocini resized Rachel Mason and Oguri_ Singularity SongPhoto Vanessa Crocini resized Rachel Mason and Oguri_ Singularity Song5Photo Vanessa Crocini resized Rachel Mason and Oguri_ Singularity Song3Photo Vanessa Crocini resized Christine Marie_ Shadow in Stereo_ Antiquated Vanessa Crocini resized Christine Marie_ Shadow in Stereo_ Antiquated A.R.3Photo Vanessa Crocinireszed Christine Marie_ Shadow in Stereo_ Antiquated A.R.4Photo Vanessa Crociniresized Christine Marie_ Shadow in Stereo_ Antiquated A.R.11Photo Vanessa Crociniresized Jay Carlon in _fold, unfold, refold_2Photo Vanessa Crocini Jay Carlon in _fold, unfold, refoldPhoto Vanessa Crocini_ Jay Carlon's _fold, unfold, refold_3Photo Vanessa Crocini resized Jay Carlon's _fold, unfold, refold_4Photo Vanessa Crocini resized Jay Carlon's _fold, unfold, refold_8Photo Vanessa Crocini resized Jay Carlon's _fold, unfold, refold_9Photo Vanessa Crocini resized
Christine Marie: Shadow In Stereo: Antiquated A.R.- Photo: Vanessa Crocini

A square wire mesh, a spinning geometric shape, a wire funnel, four ski poles and a small two-sided revolving modular set were used to aid in producing the different scenes created by Marie and Los Angeles choreographer Micaela Taylor. By using clear stencils, we also learned that the A.R. in Antiquated A.R. meant Augmented Reality. The dancers who skillfully performed were Sandra Ruiz, Jessie Lee Throne, Gigi Todisco, and Taylor Unwin.  The pulsating music was by Daniel Corral with additional tracks by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Laraaji. Sound design was by Christine Marie.

Jay Carlon is the Founder and Artistic Director of the LA based company, CARLON. I saw an earlier version of fold, unfold, refold presented in the courtyard of the Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz during a recent Los Angeles Dance Festival presented by Deborah Brockus. For the NOW Festival, Carlon has expanded tenfold the oversized cardboard sections to cover almost the entire REDCAT performance area. Sections of this floor were miked to help create the music score produced live by Alex Wand.

Dressed in dark blue coveralls, four dancers lay still at first.  As they moved, slid or hit the surface with a fist or elbow, their actions reverberated electronically. The movement became increasingly athletic with repetitive phrases on the floor, dancers leaping through the air and lifted above the heads of his/her catchers, and dynamic physical lifts. The fold, unfold, refold occurred throughout with the four seemingly challenging each other in who would lie down and who would remain standing. A trio contorted into a knot that then aggressively became untied. A disjointed solo performed by Allyson Van morphed into a tug-of-war duet with Raymond Ejiofor.

The large cardboard surface transformed into a musical harp-like instrument as it was lifted into the air and hung as a backdrop. The dancers gently stroked it, hit it and quickly swiped it to aid Wand in producing his electronic score.  Sadly, the score did not vary or grow into a crescendo or climax. I was confused too, by the emotional expressions that the dancers, especially Carlon, had on their faces during the final sections of this work. It stood alone beautifully as a straight forward performance piece and for me, it was the strongest work on the program, but the melodrama acted to obscure its meaning.

The very strong and talented dance artists included Jay Carlon, Raymond Ejiofor, Samantha Mohr, and Allyson Van.

Week three of the NOW Festival 2018 has one more performance tonight at 8:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Featured image: Singularity Song – photo by Vanessa Crocini.