Haley Stein Reviews /wē/ Co-Presented by MICHIYAYA Dance and the 14th Street Y
April 25-28, 2019
Haley Stein Reviews /wē/
Co-Presented by MICHIYAYA Dance and the 14th Street Y
Dance Artists: Belinda Adam, Breeanah Breeden, Stephanie Carlos, Núria Martin Fandos, Hannah Seiden, Alexandra Wood, Alex Bittner, Aleixa Freire, Alex Schmidt
Live Sound: slowdanger
Lighting Design: Alejandro Fajardo
Projection Design: Jess Medenbach with Media Associate, Char Stiles
From April 25th – 28th, MICHIYAYA Dance premiered /wē/, an experimental production to explore femme-centric expressions of gender fluidity and identity in a scintillating, erotic setting.
The piece opened at The 14th Street Y black box theater to a moody, dark bluish light. Two women dressed only in undergarments matching their skin color pantomimed intimate grooming practices (urinating, brushing teeth, combing hair) using props set against the sparse backdrop. The Pittsburgh-based duo slowdanger provided a live ambient soundscape. slowdanger’s arrangements permeated the opening scene with an eerie, suspenseful mood. The audience acted as voyeurs to these private personal hygiene routines. One performer gingerly removed her underclothes and climbed into a large bathtub set in the front corner of the stage, while her partner walked off stage. In the bathtub, she appeared to drift into sleep. The sound became more hypnotic, underwater-like, as a trance or a dream.
With one quick entrance the dreamy, unhurried pace sprang into a sprightly, floating energy. The first dancer bounded in with great swooping movements. She leapt around freely with arms open in grand sweeps, costumed head-to-toe in an almost white light pink combination of airy wide-legged pants and a loose-fitting t-shirt. But then came another shift, and she took to short, anxious footsteps, running in place, her back to the audience. The soloist looked back at her voyeurs, approached, and knocked herself down from our blows of probing eyes. More dancers emerged from backstage, to watch her struggle unfold. The additional dancers, dressed all the same in light pink uniform, flitted around her nervously, fraught and rhythmic. A pair of the dancers became projected images onto the screen behind them. Pixelated, digitized dancers followed the movements of their human counterparts, until their forms swayed into abstract spots and waves of white light. Nearing the end of the first act, six dancers total moved in unison, in matching costumes, in the style of jerky marionettes.
After intermission, slowdanger lulled the audience back into the dream state with angelic song to express the hope and complexity of /wē/. Dancers drifted onto the stage in languid movements, dressed now all in deep purple hues and gendered ensembles (a men’s dress shirt, a long skirt, a vest). One woman, in masculine dress, busied herself at the front of the stage marking up a mirror with fluid lines of black ink from a dry-erase marker. As she worked to obstruct her reflection with black marker, the remaining dancers arranged themselves into a single, subtly moving mass. These dancers, all collapsed upon each other into one congruent shape, symbolized the underlying unity that had been found in their renewed sense of individual actualization, as marked by their more expressive costuming. Even amid power struggles, whether individually or in a relationship, the dancers had built resilience in their respective identities.
The second act showed the vision of a world where individuals can lift and support, ground and accept one another in an examination of gender expression. /wē/ envisions dynamic sexuality expanding and growing, mutable but secure. We, the audience, may then seek to ask: is this vision a utopia, a dream, or a conceivable reality?
MICHIYAYA Dance can be followed on Instagram @michiyayadance. For more features and info on upcoming performances check the website: michiyayadance.org.
The Theater at the 14th Street Y
344 E 14th St.
Author: Haley Stein
Photo Credit: SJR Photography