IMPRESSIONS: LAVA’s "A Goddessey" at The Flea Theater
Date: December 2, 2017; 7PM
Created & Performed By: Efe Alibo, Molly Chanoff, Hilary Melcher Chapman, Lex Garnett, Sarah Dey Hirshan, Sarah East Johnson, and Lollo Romanski, with special guest, Ana Carolina
Conceived & Directed By: Sarah East Johnson
Lighting: Alison May / Music: DJ Tikka Masala, Lee Free, and Toshi Reagon
Sound: Megan McCulley / Costume: Claudia Brown & Asa B. Thornton
Dramaturgy: Mimi McGurl
Text: Starhawk, Kay Turner, bell hooks, Sarah East Johnson, and Robin Wall Kimmerer
ADDITIONAL SHOWS: on Friday, December 15 at 7PM; Saturday, December 16 at 7PM; and Sunday, December 17 at 5PM.
FOR Tickets: Purchase on the Flea Theater website.
I can’t say that I knew feminist dance was a thing a week ago.
“We’re gonna start up here in the canopy, which is like pre-patriarchy,” explains the neon body-suited Sarah East Johnson. Then, a nod to the floor: “This is like the mess we’re in now. Anyone want to know where we end up?” (Spoiler alert: say, “Yes!” and she’ll whisper the answer in your ear.) And so Johnson’s Brooklyn-based company, LAVA, ushers us into the world premiere of A Goddessy. What unfolds is no ordinary journey, but the welcoming, “we’re all in this together,” feminist vibe endures.
As promised, the women climb up the rigged contraptions to swing, unravel, and embrace. Their return to the ground is defined by NYC-quality, pedestrian haste. One encounters a “manhole” which becomes our door into the unknown, à la Alice in Wonderland.
With every slip through the manhole, Johnson and her six performers initiate a new journey in a new landscape. Each is familiar and earthly by name. But there’s nothing literal about LAVA. Presumptions are met with unexpected atmospheres conjured by the soundscapes, costumes, spoken-word, and movement. Recurrently, the women suck their index finger and stick it in the air, as if to test which way the wind is blowing. Onwards.
Our first stop, “Underground CAVE,” proves a mysterious, personal journey. Here we’re given a taste of LAVA’s movement quality, which straddles gestural and athletic. “FOREST” harnesses the power of unity with the all-female cohort circling and chanting of disruption and change. The song “You Don’t Own Me” bellows as we arrive at “MOON & WATER.” Personalities emerge through the blue wigs, boas, and a feminist-inspired, stand up comedy set.
Special guest Ana Carolina, a comedian from Buenos Aires, is an added treat. She enters shrieking in the most impressive of Claudia Brown’s costumes — a dress with an overwhelming train of red and black. Her caricatured cameo transitions us to “ROCKS AND MOUNTAINS (Are Alive!),” where she goads us into agreeing that rocks are living things. Joined by the others, a drunken, wobbly pyramid forms and a front row spectator is tasked with snapping a Polaroid.
This comical balancing act is far from the first acrobatic moment. The opening aerial work is later followed by trying lifts, diving through hoops, and return trips to the trapeze. With a few exceptions (i.e. Johnson balancing a ladder atop her chin), however, these acrobatic stunts feel peripheral. An overlying sense of playfulness and informality left me craving a more intentional display of strength and virtuosity. What did translate well was the notion of trust and camaraderie.
Our trip to “Inner/Outer SPACE” offers an example of this synergy as one stands on another’s head, the two exuding power. This segues nicely to “DESERT,” a place of hope where definitions of “utopia” collected from the audience are read aloud. We hear of equality, love, safety, resilience, and happiness.
Nothing compares to our final destination: “Rainbow Atlantis UTOPIA.” Picture a neon, rainbow, glittery, euphoric place where everyone is well-caffeinated and into line dancing and you’ll have an idea. Together, we’ve achieved our idyllic state.
From studio to stage, the women of LAVA uphold a strong feminist culture. Their solidarity is pervasive, deeply integrated into the dynamic of their performance and felt in nonconforming artistic choices of all kinds. While rainbows and tampon jokes may be front of mind as you exit, there’s no question that each woman performed her truth — a powerful message to convey.
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For more IMPRESSIONS, click here, and our 2016 POSTCARD with Lava, click here.
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