IMPRESSIONS: Tiffany Mills Company in “Blue Room” (a premiere) at The Flea Theater
Direction/Choreography: Tiffany Mills, with input from the company
Dramaturge: Kay Cummings
Performers: Tiffany Mills, Jordan Morley, Kenneth Olguin, Nikolas Owens, Emily Pope, and Mei Yamanaka
Sound Design: Max Giteck Duykers ; Lighting: Chris Hudaks; Costume: Mary Kokie McNaugher; Stage Manager/Sound Operator: Cody Johnson
Rehearsal Assistant: Emily Pope
In Blue Room, Tiffany Mills and her company of compelling dancers explore the timely question, “How can characters moving to their own soundtracks function together in this wired world?”
Two hefty sets of headphones — one pale pink and one lime green— are exchanged by the dancers throughout the piece. Wires are also present, a mighty bundle of them, carried in initially by a-headphone-sporting Jordan Morley. (The phones seem to take over his head.) Hmm.
True to contemporary life, Morley’s first action after entering the stage space is to turn away from, and tune out his castmates. Focusing on his private playlist and holding on to his precious wires, Morley manages the slowest descent into demi-plié I’ve seen. He won’t break out of solo bliss until Emily Pope convinces him to concentrate on her. (She has to work at it.)
Later, Kenneth Olguin intrigues us, performing a duet with the wires and headphone. (Who’s moving whom?) In one moment, Olguin has a handle on the situation, waving his cables expertly like a cowboy brandishing a lariat. In the next, the jumble of chords seem to knock him around, urging his leg to extend sideways, goading him to the floor.
When Olguin and Nikolas Owens tangle together in a duet that radiates playfulness, competition, and sensuality, the remaining four dancers peer intently at the pair through a square they’ve fashioned with the mass of wires — sucked in to the action through their tech.
The blue in Blue Room refers to blue painter’s tape that surrounds the stage space and is routinely repositioned by the cast. Their “tape play” forges new borders, rooms, and orientations to follow. Questions of boundaries (not only technological) are further delved into. How do the boundaries we create and live with change us and our relationships?
The tape positioning is visually exciting when the strips are suspended from the floor, creating volumes to move through. The volumes suggest possibilities, doors opening to new levels of interaction.
Tiffany Mills Company Blue Room Pictured L-R: Jordan Morley, Tiffany Mills, Emily Pope, Mei Yamanaka - Photo: Robert Altman
The blue tape is changed, the soundtrack alters, the atmosphere adjusts, and the dancers react. Channels flip, a new screen pops up. Stories develop and disappear in captivating game-like episodes. Sometimes we hear static —white noise with faintly discernible rhythms behind it— other times the sound reminds us of Phillip Glass’ repetitive meanderings, or a familiar pop beat.
The dancers fill each moment with fresh energy and delightful detail. They are a pleasure to follow. In fact, their talents make me wish for an expanded narrative to savor. Perhaps this is old fashioned of me. (It is.) Still, one of the most satisfying points of the performance is a duet between Mei Yamanaka and Owens that commits to one thought and clear relationship for a longer period of time.
Tiffany Mills Company Blue Room Pictured L-R: Mei Yamanaka, Nikolas Owens, Jordan Morley - Photo: Robert Altman
The duo gently supports one another as they spring, turn, and somersault over each other onto floor. Loose-limbed and wafting — as if driven by wind and clouds— they mesmerize us with their flow.
Filled with impressive talent and thought, Blue Room concludes with the blue tape coming to life. Lifting it high off the floor, the dancers rapidly generate a parade of geometrical shapes. Squares, rhombuses, trapezoids, and triangles spin in the air as the group spirals around them. With the rushing whirl of the dancers and forms, it feels as if the entire blue room will fly into a new dimension. But before that happens, the lights go out.
Tiffany Mills Company Blue Room Pictured - L-R: Emily Pope, Jordan Morley, Mei Yamanaka -Photo: Robert Altman