Impressions of: Liss Fain Dance, The Imperfect is Our Paradise

Impressions of: Liss Fain Dance, The Imperfect is Our Paradise
Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

By Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
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Published on February 8, 2016
Photo: RJ Muna

January 17, 2016

3LD Art & Technology Center

Choreography: Liss Fain

Dancers: Jeremiah Crank, Aidan DeYoung, Katharine Hawthorne, Megan Kurashige, Shannon Kurashige, Sarah Dionne Woods

Installation and projection media design: Matthew Antaky

Media and animation creation: Matthew Antaky and Frederic Boulay

Music: Dan Wool / Projection design and production director: Frederic Boulay

Costume design: Mary Domenico / Text: William Faulkner, from The Sound and the Fury / Voice-over: Jonathan Siegel

I saw Liss Fain Dance for the first time in the midst of an APAP-induced frenzy. It's tempting to contribute my disappointment to the general letdown of being rushed, having arrived from a different show only minutes before. But The Imperfect is Our Paradise lacks substance and is less than the sum of its parts.

To be clear: The dancers of LFD are technically accomplished, and looked completely at home within the demanding choreography. The installation, set up to be viewed in the round, did not provide the dancers with an offstage area. They were performing for 45 minutes straight, even during brief moments of stillness.

The space was defined by marley flooring in the center of the room. Large panels hung from the ceiling on all four sides of the stage, with projection playing across them. Projections also traced along the floor. Branches hung from the panels, and instead of installing footlights, small mirrors set on the floor reflected the bare lightbulbs that hung above them.

Dancers in overalls and jumpers dancing on the perimeter of the stage with projections of old homes and barns hanging from the ceiling
Photo by Frederic Boulay

Though a program note invited audience members to walk around at will and become “an integral part of the piece,” it was initially unclear if we could cross the boundary created by panels, floor and branches. As it turned out, the program meant that spectators were only invited to circle the room along a narrow path. This was neither inviting nor integral. 

In fact, the fourth wall was very much in place. I had expected a reason for such physical intimacy, but my expectation was at odds with the choreography. The dancers barely acknowledged they were being watched. Even standing inches from a sweating, panting performer didn't illicit a feeling of connection — rather I experienced a strong feeling of dissonance. There was no reason for proximity, or, for that matter, seeing the work in the round. Despite viewing it from all angles, I didn't gain any new information.

Two dancers, one on their knee and the other balancing on one leg in front of the projections. The floor also has a projection of wood slates
Photo by Dan Wool

The Imperfect is Our Paradise was inspired by William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. The costumes, projection and installation reflected elements of rural Southern life, with simple, natural fabric and tree branches. However, the novel was mixed in heavy handedly, with a distracting voice-over reading excerpts of the text. When I concentrated on parsing Faulkner's famously dense prose, I lost track of the movement — and vice versa. The two failed to illuminate each other.

At face value, this series of duets, solos and trios is enjoyable. But if, for 45 minutes, multiple layers of projection, text and performance don't communicate with each other or the audience, an installation is just a pretense for an idea that needs further development. The Imperfect is Our Paradise makes huge promises it can't keep.






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