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IMPRESSIONS: Kyle Marshall's "Rise" at The Shed as Part of the 2021 Open Call

IMPRESSIONS: Kyle Marshall's "Rise" at The Shed as Part of the 2021 Open Call
Erin Bomboy/Follow @ amazon.com/Erin-Bomboy/e/B01N5EBVMA

By Erin Bomboy/Follow @ amazon.com/Erin-Bomboy/e/B01N5EBVMA
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Published on July 12, 2021
Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed

June 25, 2021

Choreography: Kyle Marshall

Performance: Damani Alfreida, Miriam Gabriel, Kyle Marshall, and Ariana Speight

Sound Design and Performance: Cal Fish // ASL Interpreters:  Brandon Kazen-Maddox and Gregor Lopes

Makeup: Edo Tastic // Clothing: Russell Peguero


It’d been 478 days since I last saw a live performance, which is the longest I’ve gone since dance became my life. In those 68 weeks plus one day, the entire country has been through some stuff, to put it mildly, including a pandemic, an insurrection, and a reckoning with racial inequality. 
 
Obviously, I’ve missed the theater so much—sitting with companionable people I don’t know, communing with gifted artist-athletes who use their flesh, blood, and spirit to manifest the important ideas of our times. Even when I didn’t like the piece, I still relished the experience. But I’ve changed, and you probably have, too, and as I took my socially distanced seat for Kyle Marshall’s Rise at The Shed, I couldn’t help but wonder . . . Had I gotten so used to Zoom that a live show might not mean what it used to?
 
Three dancers extend their arms in low V's as Kyle Marshall chugs in profile, one leg lifted
Kyle Marshall, Rise, 2021, performed as part of Open Call, The Shed, New York, June 3, 2021. Commissioned by The Shed. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed
Marshall’s piece takes its inspiration from the shout traditions of Black churches and the trance-like pull of electronic dance music. Whether he intended it to or not, Rise also functions as a metaphor for the world waking up to a post-COVID party. This, though, isn’t your average bacchanalia. Instead, it’s a low-key, chilled-out celebration of easy bonhomie.
 
In white tops and pants with yellow, dip-dyed legs, four dancers lie prone on the stage, like beams from a sun at half-mast. Marshall and then the rest ripple through their bodies until they make their way to standing. Yoga-esque poses like a three-legged dog and various warriors eventually coalesce in walking in a circle with the occasional loose hip swing—the essence of shout tradition. Later, as anticipated by a pumping fog machine, the quartet asserts themselves as individuals with twittering feet and slicing limbs. Save a blistering, can’t-take-your-eyes-away solo of punchy weight changes from Damani Alfreida, the performance registers as no-stress from top to bottom with calm facial expressions and relaxed feet.
 
A quartet of dancers walk casually in a circle; one female dancer looks over her shoulder
Kyle Marshall, Rise, 2021, performed as part of Open Call, The Shed, New York, June 3, 2021. Commissioned by The Shed. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed
In juxtaposition, if you happened to sweep your eyes from the stage to the audience, you would get a different show. Not by the masked theater-goers, who sat politely in two-seat arrangements, but by the other participants. One-man-band/sound designer Cal Fish produces new-agey electronica in the moment by frosting thick slices of ethereal percussion with flute or piano melodies. They are no bump on a log; they move and they groove as they make the music while becoming it, too. Off to stage right is Gregor Lopes and then Brandon Kazen-Maddox. They, I hope, herald the future of making art accessible to all. They are ASL interpreters, and their gestures reflect Fish’s music. Lopes, who performed the lion’s share, undulates his arms in ocean-like waves, and he slaps his hands downward as if coaxing rhythms from bongo drums. All the while, he allows the beats to draw him into the earth. Up on stage, they dance through the music while, down here, they dance to the music.
 
Two dancers lean toward stage left while two lean forward; they are all against a lilac-colored cyclorama
Kyle Marshall, Rise, 2021, performed as part of Open Call, The Shed, New York, June 3, 2021. Commissioned by The Shed. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed
Rise is short, maybe 20 minutes or so, and while it was well-crafted with a clear arc, I wanted more, more, more: a Hot Vax Summer piece that reimagined concert-dance tropes rather than another Before Times, post-modern slow burn. Yet that may have just been me, freshly emerged from the cocoon of sheltering-in to rejoin the new world. I don’t think it’s just me to say that video won’t be killing the live show any time soon.

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