Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gardenhouse Dance showcases new work, live horse

Posted By on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Gardenhouse Dance Artistic Director Nicole Livieratos hosted a preview of works in progress at her Gardenhouse Dance Studio in Decatur this weekend. The atmosphere at Gardenhouse's current warehouse space on East Ponce de Leon Saturday afternoon was casual and convivial as Livieratos led the audience through a few glimpses at upcoming pieces.

Dancers showcased new work at Gardenhouse this weekend.
  • Dancers showcased new work at Gardenhouse this weekend.

The show opened with “elongations,” in which dancer Blake Beckham emerged from the audience, distributing to audience members rolls of blood-red ribbon tied to her abdomen that unraveled as she approached the stage. Despite the image's gruesome and even violent implications, it soon became clear that the piece would be aiming squarely at the beautiful: the gorgeous dancer, the lovely use of the ribbons, the elegant, baroque movements, and the breathtaking entrance of a live horse at the end of the piece all effectively banished any sense of brutality and anger. Livieratos said in her introduction that the piece was about the process of letting go, suggesting the bittersweet. But Beckham's final exit with the horse felt entirely positive and healing. A lovely and surprising piece with not a regret in sight.

“proximity,” which Livieratos said will become a larger piece of site-specific performance art in spring 2011, will ultimately involve a small, intimate audience on a raised platform, with action happening around it. The piece could easily skate the boundary between playfulness and a sense of uncertainty, even distrust, about where to look, which may be a something for the company to look out for as the piece develops. The finished work will incorporate video, a snippet of which is below.

“Wagons” is intended to become workday performance art for downtown's public spaces, designed to “stop people in their tracks,” said Livieratos. The proposed use of 20 pairs of dancers pulling or being pulled in children's wagons, taking on various poses inspired by famous images from art history, should have no trouble doing just that.

The final piece “nighttime monkey-mind” dealt directly with Livieratos' insomnia, which stemmed from her recent life-threatening car accident and long healing process. The dancers' movements vacillated between the cartoonish and the elegant: Waltzing and squatting, dancers connected and then seemed unaware of each other, shouted percussively and then went mute again, kicking up the layer of flower petals, dead leaves, pages of text and other detritus strewn on the floor beneath them. The piece captured the familiar frustrations of an aimless, random, restless mind, unable — or unwilling — to calm itself or turn its energy toward something productive.

Witty, generous, alert, inventive, and joyful, the group at Gardenhouse is up to some cool things indeed. Livieratos jokingly referred to the works in progress as “little teaspoons.” (Most artists would be grateful to have as many ideas in a full gallon as there are in a Gardenhouse teaspoon). Among Livieratos' and her company's many strengths seems to be an unspoken and shared understanding of the artist's role as helper and ultimately healer: There's an obvious generosity at the (very open) heart of the work, and it's exhilarating to see a company in which all are willing to do such a simple but crucial thing: to help the viewer see things differently.

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