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Tania Perez-Salas Compania de Danza' Program Sparkling and Provocative

by Rita Kohn
November 14, 2014
The Tarkington
The Center for the Performing Arts
355 City Center Drive
Carmel, IN 46032
317-843-3800
This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Power, fluidity and sparkling energy mark the eight dancers who move through the vivid, emotionally and intellectually charged modern dance choreography created by Tania Perez-Salas. You're watching and digesting the meaning surrounding the movement, traversing a landscape of what gives meaning to our existence—alternately as visual poetry, dramatic dialogue or soliloquy, pointed essay, raw graphic novel.

Provocative in its aesthetic wonderment, the three pieces send you home thinking about how technology rules our lives, removes us from the our true selves and connections with the basic elements of life and what it means to be alive. Are we human robots underlies "Ex-Stasis," created in 2010. "We have moved away from our raw nature and have forgotten to trust our instincts, which cause us to lose the communication between our mind and our body," Perez-Salas states in the program notes. Via music ranging from disco to chant, the half hour dance makes its way through disconnect toward paying attention "to the messages my body has for my mind." It is everywhere and nowhere—it's an amorphous landscape devoid of anything to excite the multitude, yet provoking a lone figure to feel the spark. Throughout this piece connecting is casual, confrontational and caustic. Unexpected uses of fabric and lighting mesmerize. Through scrims, dancers' bodies loom and diminish, overpower and are over powered. Ritualistic and carnal, it's ever changing— a feel of off-centered flux –toward expulsion from womblike safety and confinement.

With the newly created "Made in Mexico" insights are particular to this place, illustrating male-female interactions and relationships in a variety of situations. From what looks like a gymnasium setting Perez-Salas deploys us into offices via chairs on rollers and into close-quarter nightspots where high-heeled women are in the spotlight, in tangled tangos and melodramatic snapshots within changing partnerships.

The 1998 "Waters of Forgetfulness" (Las Aguas del Olvido) sent me home to pull books off the shelf because Perez-Salas states this work, "inspired by Ivan Illich's essay, 'H20 and the Waters of Forgetfulness'" reflects the symbolic role that water plays in human history as a vital, life-giving force."

Published in 1985, Illich was writing in response to the question of whether the city of Dallas in its 1984 makeover quest should showcase water transformation from septic cleansing of toilet waste into an artificial lake in its center. Illich argues against Dallas' inner city plan, and traces how we got to where humankind's original concept of water as sacred has been reduced to modernity's water as a cleaning fluid. Mexico City's location on a high plateau is intertwined with water coming down from mountaintops with no place to go—the once upon system of lakes now is a saline imprint. But long before the era of conquest there were ancient civilizations, for which the rainwater flowing into stagnant lakes was collectively mythical. Is it of consequence that Illich's essay was published in 1985, the year of the devastating Mexico City earthquake, drawing world attention to the overcrowding and unhealthy conditions of a dense urban setting where water is of consequence? For Perez-Salas' work the Tarkington stage was transformed into a pool and dancers took on forms of spirits, sprites, aquatic beings, emerging two-legged past pool's edge.

Perez-Salas can in turn be acerbic, witty and wicked, delivering a worldview and insights particular to Mexican culture. She raises consciousness. Along with reading Illich, I commend James Howard Kunster's essays in "The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition (2001)," particularly the pages on Mexico City. At the Q-A session following Friday's concert an audience member asked about safety for dancers convening from all corners of the world into the Mexico City-based company. The meticulously ballet-trained dancers assured us through focusing on their work they feel safe. Touring internationally, on the other hand, presents challenges. Politics has always made art a vehicle for power.
Tania Perez-Salas Compania de Danza in 'Waters of Forgetfulness.' Photo courtesy of the company.

Tania Perez-Salas Compania de Danza in "Waters of Forgetfulness." Photo courtesy of the company.

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