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IMPRESSIONS: Arts on Site Presents Amber Sloan

IMPRESSIONS: Arts on Site Presents Amber Sloan
Catherine Tharin

By Catherine Tharin
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Published on October 18, 2021
"Golden Delicious". Photo by Steven Pisano

Four Distinctive Dances: "A Tangled Web" (2021), "Apart/Together" (2020), "Yma Dream" (2016) and "Golden Delicious" (2011)

September 30, 2021

Choreography by Amber Sloan 


Performance: Nik Owens and Amber Sloan // Music: "Pré précieux/Stefano Gervasoni" and "Symbols by David Coll" by Trami Nguyen, and "Music in Common Time" by Caroline Shaw 

Yma Dream 2016

Performance: Sy Lu // Music: audio recording of Anne Bancroft in "Yma Dream"

Golden Delicious 2011

Performance by Chelsea Hecht and Jordan Morley // Original sound composition by Josh Benash & Caitlin Grace Bailey, additional music: "Tuned Out" by Black Dice 

A Tangled Web 

Performance by Louise Benkelman, Jordan Morley, and Amber Sloan // Music: "Transmitter Park Esplanade" by Johnny Butler

Amber Sloan presented four distinctive dances at Arts on Site: A Tangled Web (2021), Apart/Together (2020), and two dances that have defined Sloan, Yma Dream (2016), and Golden Delicious (2011).

Apart/Together, an existential and intriguing work with committed and compelling performances by Amber Sloan and Nik Owens, is poised on the edge of expectancy. A woman folds a white sheet as if it were a flag, and then flings it outward and spins like a dervish until she is spent. Draping the sheet over her extended leg, it becomes clear this sheet is her obsession.

A black and white photo shows Nik Owens and Amber Sloan with a board between them. Standing, they press themselves against the board. Sloan's arms curve downward while Owens' curve upward.
Amber Sloan and Nik Owens in Apart/Together. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Enter a white, flat board dragged by a man who turns round and round faster and faster. He abruptly stops. The board balances on his head as he slowly lowers in half-splits. She and he begin moving intensely again until she flops belly up. The board lies inert next to her. The man toes the board, stands on it until she and he abruptly switch sheet for board, board for sheet.

This switch causes the two consternation, and as a signal of this unease, the accompanying music swells. The board is laid on top of the length of her. He stands on the board, and they revolve. She slowly balls into a fetal position and faces the board. He follows. If only they could exist on the same side of the board, but the board is always between them. By the end, it is inevitable: she is left tenderly holding the board as he retreats, caressing the sheet. In this conformation, without one physical touch, they have found one another, a matchless embodiment of our pandemic lives. The dance began on Zoom.

In a clump, three people do shoulder stands on the floor. Their feet entwine.
Louise Benkelman, Jordan Morley, and Amber Sloan in A Tangled Web .Photo by Steven Pisano.

A Tangled Web opens with the six feet of Louise Benkelman, Jordan Morley and Sloan standing together in a circle. They lean back while holding hands to the live recorded sounds of 'Roots' and jam-band composer Johnny Butler. They let go but catch one another, always returning to the comfort of the three. A casual insouciance is emblematic of their connection. Jazzy piano trills and indecipherable spoken words propel reconfiguring duets and solos, forming and reforming.

Whether lifting or holding hands, even while separating, the three find a way to stay connected. They are always aware of each other. Leg extensions, little hops, and reaching far and long propel them toward the opening position, but this time, they face out. Spiraling to the floor onto their backs, their feet paw the air, and their legs entwine. As they roll over a shoulder in a wide circle with legs akimbo, lights fade, leaving the impression that their relationship as three will continue with trust and ease.

In a blue blouse, white gloves, and pearls, Sy Lu rests an elbow on a wooden stool. They have their chin in their hand.
Sy Lu in Yma Dream. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Yma Dream, performed by the incomparable Sy Lu, is set to the audio recording of actor icon Anne Bancroft's monologue of the same title. Spoken and danced vocabulary are faultlessly aligned as Bancroft tongue twists through a hilarious series of ratatat introductions to Yma Sumac, the guest of honor at a cocktail party. Dressed in pearls and blue, Lu represents the perfect hostess who, with aplomb and impeccable glamourous attitude, leads each successive (phantom) guest by white-gloved hand. All the while, Lu expressively shimmies, shoots upward like an arrow, scurries on the diagonal, gestures with flowery swoops, and lays resignedly at the foot of a real chair. Until, finally, Lu recounts that it was all a dream, drapes their fur over a shoulder, and exclaims that they’ll see their psychiatrist next week.

Jordan Morley embraces Chelsea Hecht, leaning her deep into a dip. He buries his face in her hair ad shoulder. Both are nude.
Chelsea Hecht and Jordan Morley in Golden Delicious. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Low light softly illuminates the long, sinewy and naked body of Morley. He stands serenely in silence, hands eloquently sculpting the air. A black tail of hair drapes over his shoulder toward his waist. The blond mustachioed Morley, with his own long tresses, gazes outward with expressive eyes. This mesmerizing image opens Golden Delicious. He turns upstage, and a woman, the elegant Chelsea Hecht, who lent her long hair, stands directly behind him, revealed in her original skin. Ah, a gloriously mature Adam and Eve. Thus, begins their harmonic journey of innocence and discovery. Facing forward, the fingers of one braid into the fingers of the other within a series of beautifully developed rolling and weight sharing phrases. Until the pudendum remorse, the two exist as perfect bodies in a perfect world. If only they could have stayed there! But they are expelled, and we know the rest.

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