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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Tabula Rasa Dance Theater's World Premiere of "Border of Lights"
Tabula Rasa Dance Theater
June 15, 2023
"Border of Lights"
Conceived and Choreographed by Felipe Escalante
Lighting and Set Design by Christopher Annas-Lee
Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Requiem in D minor, K. 626
Felipe Escalante’s Border of Lights is a sustained and probing work confronting us with difficult and sensitive social, political, human issues. We are drawn by his artistry into an emotional experience as he shows us the de-humanizing ‘them/us’ dichotomy in our treatment of immigrants and our fear of the ‘other’.
In the most powerful episodes, a choral mass of dancers, unisex and undifferentiated, direct their disgust and aggression towards the ’other’, victimizing the individual in ways that are shocking and familiar in current news from our borders.
Turning the John Jay Theater’s difficult space to advantage, he uses the orchestra pit to create a border/wall, that blocks and engulfs the dancers, the dancers’ arms/legs/heads emerge, trying to escape from the pit. We are forced by the immediacy of the space to witness the action, perhaps as complicit.
Felipe’s affinity for current technology is wonderful. With his excellent artistic collaborators, he uses visual and sonic effects not just for their aesthetic allure but to draw us into the action and heighten dramatic intention. Equally powerful is his use of simple theatrical devices, costumes and music all adding to the emotional impact. Woven through Border of Lights are familiar cultural images in color and costume that remind us of the sadly international scope of our urge to fear and hate.
As always, Felipe has gathered an international group of excellent and interesting dancers with whom he develops the work’s movement vocabulary. The strong and stylized movement is especially effective in creating the anonymous almost formal threat of the group, but could go much further to show the breakdown, emotional and physical, that results from the group’s grotesque behavior.
The completeness of Felipe’s theatrical vision, his personal investment and his research for Border of Lights makes us feel the danger and ugliness these behaviors create for both aggressor and victim. And make us want to join him in the call to “dismantle the obsolete walls and artificial boundaries that divide us”.