Photo by Yi-Chun Wu
Friday May 22nd, 2015 - BodyWorks: Teresa Fellion Dance presenting THE MANTISES ARE FLIPPING W.3 at Danspace, St. Mark's Church.
I had attended a studio run-thru of this work a couple of weeks before the opening, but was experiencing the costumed and lit production for the first time. A large crowd had gathered to watch the performance in the high-ceilinged, cordial atmosphere of St. Mark's. While I knew (from the rehearsal) that audience members would be urged to walk among the performers at the start of the piece, I hadn't realized that this would go on for 25 minutes. Not feeling up to a long stand, I remained in my seat and thus for the first half of the evening my view of the dancers was blocked. But I knew from the rehearsal that the dancers were striking plastique poses while being examined at close range by the wandering viewers. It takes great concentration and self-assurance for a dancer to do this, and these dancers were definitely up for it.
Once the space was cleared of spectators, the dancers doffed their white outer garments (photo at top) and appeared all in black. The choreography unfolded persuasively, just as it had in the rehearsal. Ms. Fellion is most fortunate to have a committed troupe of dancers to work with, and they gave the piece their all. Several powerful vignettes ensued, and the overall effect was strikingly enhanced by the lighting: illuminated pathways on the floor directed the flow of movement while pools of light isolated certain combinations of dancers. Nearing the end of the work, the dancers moved to the 'altar' of the church and the choreographer made fine use of the steps there to depict writhing, living sculpture of humanity from which isolated dancers sought to escape. Two of them do, and move in tandem along a path of light until everything fades to darkness.
Overall, while the idea of placing dancers amid the audience is viable (Cedar Lake's installations always made powerful use of this concept), in a formal dance production this needs to be done sparingly. Older viewers (like me!) will not always feel like standing for extended periods of time, and borderline enochlophobes (like me!) will not feel comfortable in such a situation. My only other reservation about the performance was that the ending might have profited from some editing; it seemed after a while that the choreography was striving to fill out the music rather than tapering the music to make for a more potent dramatic impact.
In the end, as in all danceworks, it was the dancers who made it work: Iman Barnes, Zach Bergfelt, Corey Bliss, Mia DeWeese, Alex Jenkins, Monica Mordaunt, and Audrey Rachelle Stanley. The costumes were by Ljupka Arsovska, with lighting designed by Tim Cryan and live music and original composition by Ryan Edwards and John Yannelli.