T:BA Day 4 | Passing Through a Narrow Passage

passing through a narrow passage

Now getting deep in to the brush and organic material is clinging to your clothes, sweat is on your brow and the mirage of relief is beginning to appear lucid in your imagination. It is day four at the festival. Initially, you look forward to the weekend of activities, but on Sunday, you realize there are no days off—the weekend is forever. Angela Mattox has committed to be available in the beer garden every night. If she can do it, so can You. You must continue.

Sorry that was a passage from my personal journal.

Mid-week is certainly less demanding. Perhaps I can take one day off mid-week to recharge. Because certain things in my daily life cannot be left unattended to, as we journey through Time [Based (Art)] together: you the reader, me the journalist.

After seven years covering T:BA, The Works location including its black box theater and visual exhibition are closer than ever to my North Portland residence. It makes things easier, I tell you. From this tailored warehouse at the Con-Way Building, I observed the following three performances.

Three Trick Pony is a surreal presentation featuring Portland’s own post-modern movement guru Linda Austin, in collaboration visual artist David Eckard, set to music from sonic sculptor Doug Theriault. I think that each artist is performing around his or her best here. The crafts are pre-built and remain on stage, plus the music already complete, so Linda is the sole live performer of this piece. But the crafts are fascinating and Doug’s music is definitely engaging and equally bizarre alongside Linda’s idiosyncratic moves and David’s stark stage set.

The setting reminded me of any Beckett less-than-three-act play. But without any relationship to create dialogue, the movement communicates the objects. I did not have real empathy for the being in the room, though a definite life force is there, creating the relationship between these objects. Without music, it could be tedious.

Portland’s contemporary dance community is by-and-large the product of Linda Austin. When I watch her, performing her own work in her own environment, I can see Lucy Yim, Danielle Ross, Kathleen Keogh, Jin Camou, and other Portlanders in there. And there is a unique, quirky style of dance that relies rarely on virtuosity as much as staging, storytelling, and personality.

I think with Linda’s style of teaching, one hand holds the other; there is mutual feedback. So it is not that she produces imitators; she produces a conversation of dancers.

But in this performance, Linda is in many ways that person on the street corner whom you don’t know to be sane, conscious, or what. Obviously as the choreographer, she is all there. But in character, this may be a unique opportunity for her to communicate with the unknown, from a place awkwardly muttering deep below the personal mind.

Trajal Harrell followed Linda Austin’s work only about thirty minutes later, with a piece called Anti-Gone, the “junior size” version of the Judson Church series. He did not prep the audience very well when the event was perhaps better attended than he expected, forcing many ticket and pass holders to sit on the floor while rows upon rows of seats were closed, upon his request. People swallowed it rather than make a scene. The volunteer usher said, “sorry guys.” I felt like a cad when I wouldn’t give up my seat for older women. But I guess I’m no worse than the other men.

Then came the technical difficulties. Momentarily, left/right channels were cutting out. I realized it wasn’t an effect when it finally resolved. Then they forgot a prop and stopped the scene short, picking up in the next section. That particular section is hard to get in to. Someone in the audience is deeply touched. I am not a dance geek, as the Portland Mercury notes in their special coverage, so I am likely not going to get in to it.

But why I am troubled watching it is simply that its like focusing on one person in a dance party: its not a performance its voyeurism. However, there is recognizable choreography and themes, plus some definite virtuosity, and some heavy emotion. It is performance art and it is dance. Mission accomplished.

I went home after this to host my usual Breaking Bad screenings at The Point. I’m nuts over that show. My god. But I returned for The Works.

The feature was Rainbow Passage by Nick Hallett featuring Golden Retriever, Holocombe Waller, and The Julians. And that is just the music, something beautiful enough to stand on its own. But the sound was enhanced with a minimalist light show presentation from Brock Monroe.

The show description is a bit beyond the truth of what is happening there. A rainbow of sound really ought to go beyond a single tonal center. The music was set to a single, harmonic key, at least in each unique movement. I did not note or measure what key it was in.

Although the tumbling passages of tone based mostly on the human voice–and mostly on an instructional record that claims to teach all the sounds of the voice–do indeed coalesce in the way described. However, its like each movement is one color and shades of that color within it. If it was a rainbow, it did not truly inhabit all the colors.

Regardless of that criticism, I find myself elated by the sound, drawn in by the light show, in total harmony with the moment, and impressed with the capability of the musicians.




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