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IMPRESSIONS: Keely Garfield's "Telling the Bees"

IMPRESSIONS: Keely Garfield's "Telling the Bees"

Published on March 19, 2013

IMPRESSIONS: Keely Garfield's Telling the Bees

The Chocolate Factory, LIC, NY
March 15, 2013
Choreography: Keely Garfield
Performers: Keely Garfield, Paul Hamilton, Molly Leiber, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Brandin Steffenson
Original Music: Luca Fadda, Matthew Brookshire, Cyrus Ra
Lighting: Madeline Best
Costumes and Sets: Keely Garfield

March 19, 2013

Erin Bomboy for The Dance Enthusiast
Keely Garfield inverts the custom of informing bees about the death of their keeper in her new piece, Telling the Bees. In cultures as far flung as ancient Egypt and the Scottish Highlands, folklore indicated that bees must be told of important life events. Otherwise, feeling scorned, they would abandon the hive in death or retreat, thus ending their powerful contribution to human existence. In Garfield’s piece, these insects, responsible for the mass pollination of crops, speak to us of their imminent demise due to society’s careless mishandling of their vibrant ecosystem.
Keely Garfield's Telling The Bees : photo Brian Rogers
Dotted with terra cotta planters and a few artfully placed sunflowers, the brightly lit stage evokes a fragrant utopia. Garfield and her four dancers, costumed in sunny hues, depict the cooperative industry of bees through delicate and quirky maneuvers that infuse traditional dance vocabulary with a childlike sense of wonder. Feet flutter, fingers curl (like antennae detecting odors), and bodies oscillate in a throb of diligence. Recurrent spatial pathways trace a honeycomb’s grid across the stage.
Garfield excels at crafting arresting visual scenarios. In one, Paul Hamilton and Brandin Steffenson execute a marching sequence punctuated with swift kicks while Molly Lieber and Omagbitse Omagbemi sinuously crawl on their sides before swapping sequences. We could watch this all night.
A rare dynamism enriches the lucid choreography. Dancers move languidly as if contained in a vat of syrup, performing layered vignettes that defy traditional divisions of time. Movements embody an airy-like expanse in which rhythms seem intuitively phrased. When dancers, arms bowed at the elbow and extended from hip level, spin across the floor, turns appear calibrated through sensation not reason. Occasionally, this fluid approach results in a lack of synchronicity during group sections. Hive harmony may be disturbed, but the solos and duets burn with dreamy intensity.
Keely Garfield's Telling The Bees : photo Brian Rogers
The soundscape architected by Lucas Fadda and Cyrus Ra burbles with a grab bag of electronic noises. Garfield’s elastic combinations swell to absorb the sounds, even when the music seems unrelated to the movement.
Matthew Brookshire, a silvery voiced folk singer, invigorates our ears with two live songs. The first, a musical rendition of poet John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Telling the Bees,” assuages the dancers who just convulsed to the floor in an agitated fit. His second song, appearing at the piece’s end, offers gentle admonishments to the audience reminding us to embrace respectful husbandry because “we are the honey.”
Telling the Bees casts a mostly hypnotic presence. It’s too long. At over seventy minutes, the vignettes puddle together and the liquidity of time, which entrances in the beginning, crusts over into a tangible, nagging entity.Yet, Garfield’s invocation for prudent care of our delicate ecology lingers long after the evening’s end.
For More Information about Keely Garfield and The Chocolate Factory
Keely Garfield
The Chocolate Factory


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