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AUDIENCE REVIEW: KDNY/A Complex Sum: What She Said She Saw

KDNY/A Complex Sum: What She Said She Saw

KDNY/A Complex Sum: What She Said She Saw

Performance Date:

Company / Show / Event
KDNY/A Complex Sum: What She Said She Saw

Performance Date

Venue / Location
New York Live Arts/Bessie Shonberg Theater

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(your occupation, the last time you moved, your website, etc.)

Recent College Graduate

Freeform Review:

Art is essential to humans.  Artifacts associated with human haunts of the last fifty thousand years provide ample evidence of that.  Some art does not fossilize.  Communications, language, poetry, song, music and dance may extend even further back in time. 

Like the rest of us, Ayn Rand also thought art was essential to humans and wanted to understand why.  She applied her considerable analytical skills to the effort, creating a framework, a philosophy of art, identifying and ranking different forms of art, and mandating that it was all rational.  In her Romantic Manifesto, using her powerful and pulsating prose, she said art was the concretization of the abstract and art appreciation the assessment of the emotional reactions by the rational mind.  Rand saw art  as A Complex Sum of our individual experiences.  This dance was about what she said she saw as a story of the struggle to bring one's senses and emotions under the discipline of the rational mind.


I saw the set, black in back and on both wings, as the inside of a mind.  It contained four rectangles, standing upright, about one by two meters, of golden spirals and squiggles, the bumps on the brain, with circular medallions that would eventually serve as projection screens.  For the prelude, the stage was illuminated with bright white electroluminesence wires starting from each of rectangles, suggesting some chaos, off stage lights shone through a curling fog creating, for me, the effect of sun shining through stain glass windows.  What we were to witness was both univereal and sacred.   The music, harmonium with reverberating clicks, completes the scene.


After the prelude, with the lights coming up to piano music, we see seven dancers, all dressed in gold.  I identify the one on stage left as the rational mind, danced by Leslie Ziff, displays despondency.  The dancers in a row, Carly Berret, Amanda Blauer, Katie Griffin, Melissa Peraldo, Alice Pucheu, which I nominate as the emotions, are playing games with their lights, causing them to appear and to disappear as would a magician.    The mini-scene devolves as one of the emotions collects the lights.  It  is one of the features of modern dance by which I am easily drawn in that the dancers communicate with their faces as with well as with their bodies.  In this case, the emotion stares with both haughtiness and reproof.   She rounds on them, evicts from the front the first emotion, and tries to assume leadership of the file, which spontaneously evaporates into singlets doing their own thing: exaggerated stepping with bent knees, arms lifted over head chomping and grasping, trying to capture the whole world, arms lifted over head in the iconic Atlas Shrugged stance. 


This movement, all by itself, is pleasant to watch.  The dancers are strong, graceful, controlled, free-flowing, individual and coupled, close and intertwining but never touching, doing things that attract the eye by their newness and improbability: bounds, kicks, twirls, sudden stops with perfect balance on one leg at the end of movement, frequently in perfect synchrony with others.  But watching pleasing movement does not stop the human brain from seeking patterns. 


The story continues.  The stage empties.  From the right, an emotion emerges from the right dragging the rational mind by the foot across the floor, to the music of a cello accompanied by what I will call an electronic musical saw.  The rational mind picks herself up and dances a duet with this emotion but loses control.  The emotion forces her down, using her hand like a tool to rachet her to the floor.  The scene is almost disturbing in its brutality, as the emotion acts to subjugate and mold the rational mind with posture and with hands to her face.  Other emotions emerge from the left, but collapse.  While the first emotion continues her ramble, the rational mind returns to life, rolls over and tries to revive the collapsed emotions, first one and then another, creating an image of an animal trying to resuscitate fallen members of the pack.


The next chapter, to reverberating percussion, begins quietly.  The sculptures are raised, the signs of chaos are retracted, a video of a stream tumbling over stones is projected onto the medallion of the left scultpure, sunlight dapples the floor.  The quiet is disturbed as the rational mind begins to discipline the emotions, a slap to the face, hands molding a stance -- leg like so, hip like so, the dominating, berating drill-sergeant in your face.  The physical violence transitions to a mentoring, with the rational mind leading the others, and finally with all converging to a huddle hug, but with the rational mind still exerting discipline by ejecting with her legs, her feet, her shrugs, the defiant and the intractable.   The rational mind demonstrates control, staring at each in turn, with the emotions following semi-compliantly; the rational mind leads with an elegance and grace and eye-catching sinuous head waves.  To slow music combining wordless voice, repeated melodious snippets on the piano, and percussive seed pods transitioning to harmonium, the dancers, moving slow and languidly, gradually leave the stage, leaving but one to solo. 


The sculptures are lowered, red light fills the space, guitars are strumming switching to string quartet and a change of garb to shirts and short pants. The rational mind dances, first by herself and then with her emotions. Motion is synchronized, flapping arms lead to flights, one leg stands, Atlas moves. 


Finally, while the dancers move as solos, in duets, as groups, with shifts from individual to synchrony, the music moves from violin to orchestral.  All of the music, whose wealth of diversity I noted above, was composed by Cristina Spinei, specifically for just this dance. The dancers, conveying ease and pleasure and even laughter, synch up with the rational mind who is spinning and raising her arms in freedom.  The gang coalesces and surrounds the rational mind who has stopped and kneels in a pose of meditation.  The lights turn blue, the music is frenetic, the emotions fragment, scatter and then return, each in turn presenting the rational mind a little white light, a certificate of accomplishment, to the rational mind, who takes them all and holds them to her heart, as the lights fade.


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