Monday, February 25, 2013

The Interior Landscape of the Emotional Mind, Chaddick Dance Company at Ballet Austin, February 22 - March 3, 2013

Austin Live Theatre reviewInterior Landscape of the Emotional Mind Chaddick Dance Austin TX

by David Glen Robinson

It was a cold night in Austin, made worse by the biting wind that swirled around its towers and roared down its streets. Inside Ballet Austin studios, Cheryl Chaddick and company lay in wait for their audiences with a well-prepared dance show that eventually took us to the forefront of Austin and regional contemporary dance. The Interior Landscape of the Emotional Mind was presented as a site-specific dance, or site dance. 

How fitting that an appropriate environment for the performance is within the offices and rehearsal studios of an award-winning dance company, Ballet Austin. Perhaps this setting turned the corner on the site-specific concept -- with or without tongue in cheek, I don’t know.

Production in unconventional spaces presents exceptional challenges, but the audience got the metaphor from the beginning. The Chaddick company performed the dances of this integrated show in the hallways, balconies, rehearsal studios and alcoves of Ballet Austin, shifting the setting metaphorically into a many-chambered mind to show us facets of that often perplexing house within us all. We saw six such meditations on the house. 

It all worked because choreographer Chaddick remained true to the basics of choreography and theatrical production. She crafted dances with attention to shape, gesture, rhythmic steps, floor patterning and overall structure. All the separate performances here were well lit, with clearly audible soundtracks and sightlines. Do these production elements seem too trivial to mention? I assure you that other recent site-specific performances in Austin have shown very little consideration for these basics. They're anything but trivial.

Usher-guides led us to the spacious foyer and directed our attention to the second story balcony for Going In. Two plain white masks wrapped in red robes rose up and peered down at us through the railing. They perched at the head of the stairs, silent, impersonal and persistently ominous, their trailing red robes giving them monstrous size. Obviously, they had missed the bus when Where the Wild Things Are left town and had pawned their horns and earrings in order to eat. Soloist Katie Mae Hebert, unmasked and clad in black, danced gymnastically on, around and through the balcony railing. Her dance established a great contrast to the forbidding forms nearby; she ended it with her feet protruding through the railing bars, slowly relaxing to stillness. I wasn’t quite sure of the intended takeaway of this piece, and I wondered why such a powerful blast of fantastic imagery exploded on us at the beginning of the evening. But I was definitely along for the ride.

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