Dance WiRe (Writers in Residence)

Two Local Voices on a Double Bill

Amanda Acorn & Andrea Spaziani By Robert Kingsbury
  • Amanda Acorn / Photo by Talia Shipman
  • Alicia Grant, Andrea Spaziani and Julia Male in Spaziani’s Rafters / Photo courtesy of Spaziani

Local and emerging artists-in-residence Andrea Spaziani and Amanda Acorn share a program during the Dancemakers MiniFest on June 13 in the Distillery District.

The two are well paired on the festival’s Double Bill in that they both tend to explore broad themes through the direct yet somatic exploration of tasks and processes. In this idiom of expanded movement research, the audience’s attention is leased and renewed with each instant, invested in a shared moment of effort and agency toward non-specific meaning making.

Acorn’s earlier work Multiforms comes in both solo and group formats. She references the paintings of Mark Rothko, which, through their specific interaction of dim light and dark paint absorbed by the eye over time, seem to shift and open up new dimensions both within and without. The dancers perform a suspended animation of progressive movement loops. One can either watch for the approximate re-articulation of repeated movements or the eventual shift toward a new loop. In this way, the work creates a definite system wherein the experience of time can settle into familiar regularity. The piece highlights the basic agency of both audience and performers.

Acorn’s work deals with the materials of body, practice and mode of production, as well as that of “stuff”. Her piece Leisure Palace, in particular, emphasizes bodies in tie-dyed comfort wear relating to and interacting with bunches of Mylar underneath hanging paper globules and accompanied by a live DJ.  Acorn describes creating a “utopic” bubble within the larger space of the world.

Her new work explores the potential for the arts – and dance specifically – to highlight bodily relationality within an increasingly technological world. She contrasts this with musings on the arts’ privileged status and tendencies toward self-reference and exclusivity. In this showing of her new work, look out for a space that negotiates the co-existence of hope and doubt within a group dynamic. The performers work to unpack how movement generates itself in the constellation between them.

For those who saw Andrea Spaziani’s This Desiring Pony or Silver Venus, this program provides a chance to witness Rafters, a trio with Spaziani, Julia Male and Alicia Grant that precedes and informs Spaziani’s current research. This piece presents a triune character with reflective pants, who starts off in a state of comatose defeat and, through stillness, builds enough of a charge to make brief, but grand efforts. The timing among the three dancers is impeccably comic. Somewhere between animated figures, reptilian bodies and dancer-people, the three slowly evolve toward an ecstatic almost free-jazz, improvised state.

As in This Desiring Pony, Spaziani’s more recent solo, the tension stretches between constraint and abandon, troubling whether the construct of performing lies in holding back or letting go. Something of a feminist consideration arises here, of an ever-renewing search for authenticity in each moment, within the performative context of dance with its lineages of conformity and discipline. In Rafters, the bodies seem to search and grasp for reflexes that don’t feel preordained, almost an attempt at coming to life again and again. The work is accompanied by recordings of Spaziani musing to herself, divulging ironic and humorous thoughts that reveal a desire to impart the awkwardness of self-reflection and making.

In Silver Venus, Spaziani had performers challenge the tropes of the goddess through compositional group work. Five similarly gorgeous dancers, four women and one man, begin draped in the black material from theatre curtains that are often stripped from black boxes to contemporize spaces. Like statues that continually swallow up the gaze of the audience, they eventually begin subversively squirting liquid out of water balloons hidden in their palms. Later we catch them sliding across the space on dollies, picking up and supporting each other’s movements and at the same time hoping to steal the limelight. Rafters holds the seeds to this exploration, with its collective investigation of character-less-ness through immediate action.

The opportunity to see recent work by Acorn and Spaziani back to back is sure to offer a delightful juxtaposition of the parallel paths being carved out by two strong local voices in contemporary dance of late.

Double Bill runs on June 13 at Dancemakers Centre for Creation as part of the Dancemakers MiniFest.







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