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'Dreams' the theme at REDCAT's NOW Festival July 26

by Jessica Abrams
August 5, 2014
REDCAT
(Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater - in the Walt Disney Concert Hall)
631 W. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-237-2800
According to psychotherapist Carl Jung, dreams help the psyche right itself when it becomes split between the two opposing forces of rational thought and emotional energy. As compensation for this imbalance, the psyche will attempt to provide clues, or possible solutions to the problem, through dreams. Our nocturnal meanderings may be specific to each individual, but they contain symbols and hidden meanings that run through all dreams, forming what Jung calls "the collective unconscious", a set of metaphors that have connected people and cultures throughout history.

Indeed, dreams were the common thread running through the two dance pieces premiering at the NOW Festival on July 26, 2014, at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, or REDCAT. The definition of dreams in each piece may differ, but the collision of these two energies and the dream that acts as the bridge between them brought forth an evening of highly original and provocative work.

Wilfried Souly's "Saana/The Foreigner" began with Souly himself outside the auditorium. A native of Burkina Faso and an internationally known choreographer and dancer with a number of cross-cultural collaborations to his name, Souly warmed the audience up slowly, working his way through the crowd with small gestures and movements on decorative fabric laid out on the floor to the sound of native children singing. Shirtless and clad in white jeans, Souly alternated between walking with arms outstretched in a welcoming stance and undulating his powerful upper torso to evoke a deeper sense of pain and despair. Indeed, the experience of seeing the dancer outside his or her designated spot served to take the audience by surprise, and the usual ebullience of a crowd as it anticipates a performance took a tonal shift as it absorbed the weight of Souly's inner (and outer) journey.

Onstage, the piece picked up with Souly lying on the floor in a fetal position with his back to the audience. Two musicians, one on acoustic guitar, the other on mandolin, each walked down a set of the side stairs to take their place onstage with him. Souly began to writhe, a baby awakening to new life. Once standing, he combined the upper body looseness of Afro-Brazilian dance with repetitive movements where he pounded the stage in frustration. At times his body quivered in fear. Questions projected onto the back wall – "What is your purpose in coming to the United States?" – took us right to passport control and a Green Card checkpoint. The two guitar players, in their respective native tongues of Spanish and German, answered the questions thrown at them. Souly's covering his naked torso with a tailored jacket served to let the audience know his journey has ended. And while his dream may have come true, his struggle and frustration have just begun.

"Still", a piece by Rosanna Gamson/World Wide, began with a dancer, flailing, struggling, working out an inner battle before another dancer came onstage to hold and still him, illuminating a light on the floor. The dancers then pulled scrims across the length of the stage, giving it layers, depth of field and a gauzy, hazy quality to mirror the unconscious. Rosanna Gamson/World Wide is a self-described dance theater company, but "Still" is very much a dance piece, with seven brilliant technicians dancing out their deepest fears, longings and nocturnal impulses with virtuosity and finesse.

The two women in the group, Lavinia Findikoglu and Alexandria Yalj, long-haired and long-limbed, clad in cotton undergarments, their limbs extending into infinity passionately come together and move apart, bending, twisting, writhing. Some Jungian scholars assert that the madwoman appears frequently in women's dreams as a metaphor and model to pave the way for women's eventual liberation. With their breath audible and their hair wild, Findikoglu and Yalj embody this archetype and the struggle taking place during sleeping hours as the psyche, in this case female, tries to break free from convention and cultural stereotypes.

The music emphasized the subtle shifts from dreams to waking to dreams again, from the industrial hum of a locomotive to old-school carny music to a more conventional Vivaldi-esque piece. The two women were eventually joined by five men and the ensemble alternated between synchronized movement as the dancers acted out their individual struggles, throwing themselves onto the ground with fury and abandon, and the beauty and safety of the collective. As the scrim moved away, the dancers could be seen in a harsher light, pairing and breaking apart, at one point forming a human chain across the stage. At the end, the dancers broke off into pairs, taming each other and, in effect, waking from the dream state by illuminating the light on the floor once again.

Gamson's movement tonally shifts from lyrical adagios to fierce, almost violent cutting and twisting, limbs acting as propellers to change shapes and moods in an instant. The effect is a thrilling sensory experience, where movement, light and music come together to tell a story in a non-linear way, but with the understanding that the story indeed lives on, deep beneath the surface.

The dream of the new world or and dream that torments us out of sleep: is one dream more worthy than the other? Jung would say both indicate an unconscious drive, a need to break free of one way to move into another. At REDCAT that night, both pieces did -
Beautifully.
Wilfried Souly's 'Saana/The Foreigner'

Wilfried Souly's "Saana/The Foreigner"

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Gunther


Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's 'Still'.

Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's "Still".

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Gunther


Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's 'Still'.

Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's "Still".

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Gunther

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