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IMPRESSIONS: "Interface" by Rashaun Mitchell

Published on March 20, 2013
Stephanie Berger.

IMPRESSIONS: "Interface" by Rashaun Mitchell

at Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, New York
March 15th, 2013

Choreographer: Rashaun Mitchell
Performers: Silas Riener, Melissa Toogood, Cori Kresge, and Rashaun Mitchell
Original Music: Thomas Arsenault (Mas Ysa)

Video: Nicholas O'Brien

March 20th, 2013

Cory Nakasue for The Dance Enthusiast

The world premiere of Rashaun Mitchell’s Interface is a bold treatise on the subject of bodies and emotion. He traverses some complex territory with regard to the origins of (e)motion with varying levels of sophistication and success.

Exhibit A: Outside In vs. Inside Out-- Where Mitchell uses all manner of manipulations of the physical body (manipulation by self or others of facial expressions; think Michael Jackson’s Black or White music video) to illicit emotional recall in the body. Or conversely, allowing a (seemingly) self generated emotion express itself—sometimes both processes happening at once.

Silas Riener, Cori Kresge, Rashaun Mitchell, Melissa Toogood in Interface; Photo Stephanie Berger

Exhibit B: The Body Never Lies (?)--Where facial expressions are obscured and the audience is left to read the body. Two powerful solos are at the fore of this conversation: Melissa Toogood’s artful facial concealment behind her long brown locks amidst a jittery and anxiety ridden passage spoke volumes more than any facial expression could, as did Mitchell’s athletic temper tantrum performed with his back to the audience.

Exhibit C: Being Three Dimensional in a Two Dimensional World-- Projection and reflection, both literal and figurative were used to great effect by the exposure of floor to ceiling windows that revealed the environment outside while reflecting the dancers inside. At times I felt myself more entranced by the two dimensional bodies floating in the night sky—moving at mysterious and impossible angles. Large sections of movement were cropped within the many frames of the windows, creating a hazy, romanticized version of the real time performance. Abstract black and white projections also appeared on the windows along with close up video of the dancers’ faces—a bit heavy handed in its attempt to remind the audience of Interface’s thesis. There is a sufficient amount of the aforementioned figurative emotional projection and reflection between the performers.

Rashaun Mitchell (floor), Silas Riener (standing) in Interface, Photo Stephanie Berger

Arguments and explorations aside, this is simultaneously tricky subject matter, and ideal subject matter for choreography as an art form. Tricky because the body is always expressing something that is subject to interpretation, creating difficulty in the organization of discreet ideas. Also, with regard to these specific dancers it is easy to get caught up in their astounding virtuosity. Most everything they do looks unrepentantly like Dance. It leaves me to wonder what a theater company would do with this subject matter, or differently skilled dancers (not Cunningham trained).

But, dance is also an ideal form for this journey into the process, ephemerality, and transition of emotions. Dance’s liquid state mirrors our own emotional fluidity—as slippery as the definitions we use to contain it.

Melissa Toogood, Cori Kresge (background); Silas Riener (foreground) in Interface; Photo Stephanie Berger

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