Time expands, narrative shimmers forth and slips away; formalism meets humanity in <fidget>’s staging of Robert Ashley’s experimental opera Dust. Working with the original recording and a cast of five dancers, director/choreographer Megan Bridge cultivates a shifting performance landscape that builds, swells, loops back and comments on itself. The work’s complex musicality and surreal narrative carry a strangely ebullient and humorous tone despite subject matter that includes war and a drug-induced conversation with God. Ashley was known for the distinctly American voice, language patterns, and structures of his operas. Bridge weaves movement that sometimes skates on top, sometimes intersects, and sometimes rides the wave of Ashley’s score. Movement and voice vacillate between a delivery that is muttered then precise, pedestrian then virtuosic. An homage to minimalism is evident in the work (Bridge’s choreographic mentor for the project was Lucinda Childs), yet is tempered by an improvisatory, somatic approach to movement generation that is inspired by working with Deborah Hay. Video design by Peter Price responds in real time to the dancers’ movement, creating a colorfield effect that breathes with the dance. Anthropologist and critic Carolyn Merritt (thinkingdance.net) writes of Dust: “Here time slows down…I sense a collective inhale. It links us—one to another, audience to dancers, dancers to voices… If nothing can keep the river of time in place, perhaps the only remedy is to jump in with both feet as often as we can…Nourish that part of ourselves that is infinite.
Tanzmesse, Dusseldorf (August 2016), FringeArts, Philadelphia PA; Lightbox, Detroit MI (preview)
<fidget> is a platform for the collaborative work of Megan Bridge (choreography) and Peter Price (time-based media). <fidget>’s performance works are dark worlds populated by biological, post-human entities. Somatic, improvisationally generated movement is choreographed into formalist structures. Interactive technology creates a sonic and visual environment which breathes in response to the dance. Bridge and Price create awkward dystopias, referential and even appropriationist, grounded in the discourses of contemporary art, culture, and theory (we like experiments). Focusing on the materiality of movement, sound, and environment, <fidget>’s work can be seen as a sort of metaphysical spelunking: churning up bits of evidence with which to construct a biological commentary on the effects of a machinic and increasingly compartmentalized existence. As artists, researchers, and curators Bridge and Price aim to challenge conceptual paradigms in the arts and humanities and to deepen thinking about culture and the nature of human experience. <fidget>’s work has been seen in Berlin, Dresden, Johannesburg, Vienna, Zurich, Poznan, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix. The origin of <fidget>’s collaborative work is multimedia dance theater, an orientation that follows the historical legacies of Bauhaus, Ausdruckstanz, 1960’s experimentalism, performance art of the 70’s and 80’s, and developing digital multimedia. Since 2000, <fidget> has created twenty original works that involve live performance, sound, and visual design.
Photo by: Johanna Austin
This post is part of a series of profiles on performance and performance makers from this year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2016, an overview of contemporary performance presented during the 2014/2015 season available for touring now. If you would like to be apart of next year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2017, you can join the project here.