Nancy Carter @ Sugar Space

This weekend at Sugar Space, Nancy Carter premiered her performance company Rumble Motion Jawbone with “Tale from the Land of Frightful Dreams,” as well as a short piece by Paul Wirth as a part of the New Blood Dance Project.

 New Blood Dance Project is a new for Salt Lake City; “non-choreographer,” Paul Wirth made a piece with professional dancers in the city and with the support of an experienced choreographer. This short piece, “At Last a Spell,” began the concert. When the lights came up, dancers dressed all in white were seated in a tight ball downstage left. They began slowly rolling out of their tight balls, up the diagonal. The piece continued, mostly on that diagonal, with the dancers first jiving by themselves to the music, then acting as forces on each other, and finished with them dancing to their own rhythms. It was great to see a work by a “non-choreographer.” It made me wonder what his process was and how it might have differed if an “experienced choreographer” since the end product was not as different as I might have expected. This is an exciting and admirable project; I hope that it continues.

Next up was “Tale from the Land of Frightful Dreams,” which was the majority of the concert. I was excited to see this new work by Nancy Carter, knowing that it combined contemporary dance with circus, acting, and butoh-like movement. Combining all of these seemingly disparate elements is no simple task and I was curious to see how the concert might come together.

“Tale from the Land of Frightful Dreams” did not disappoint. Carter beautifully and seamlessly wove together all of the elements, creating a unique and interesting world for the performance to exist in. Each character had their own unique movement signature that was completely different from every other character and yet each one seemed to fit with the whole of the performance.

    The piece began with Lumlum (Tatiana Mixco) peeking out from under the curtain—using different body parts to explore the stage space. She tentatively made her way out, becoming more and more confident. Her movement was playful, even squirrel-like, barely ever coming more than three-feet off the floor.

Next to enter was Iao (Michael Watkiss). First, just his hand and arm appeared upstage right, fluttering and slightly jerking. Then the rest of his body appeared, echoing that fluttery, jerky movement style—which soon became evident as his movement signature. Both of these dancers fully embodied the movement signatures so that there was a definite, unique and even three-dimensional impression for the audience. The same was true for Itst (Mary Oliver), Wetseek (Tanja London), and even for the Three (Cody Tahmassebipour, Lynn Bobzin, and Maryann Lang).

The Seer (Scott Maddix) was a lovely actor, but because his part was acted, it felt less embodied and not as three-dimensional as the other dancers. As an audience member, I was brought out of the “Tale” for a moment to adjust to the difference in his performance style.

Similarly, while the aerial lyra section with Chaise (Aleisha Paspuel) was beautiful to watch, this character also felt slightly less developed. There were not quite as many distinctive layers to her movement as the rest of the characters. However, the aerial work fit perfectly with the rest of the piece, which is often hard to pull off in a contemporary or even experimental dance forum.

The duet between Itst and Iao was intensely stunning. The complex relationship between the vibrating Iao and the bird-like Itst was fascinating. I found myself vacillating between feeling like the two were a perfect match for one another and feeling like Itst was manipulating Iao, forcing him to do or be something he didn’t want. I couldn’t quite grasp if she was helping or hurting him—which was what made it so interesting.

At the end of the piece, Iao is trapped in some kind of jail, and Lumlum and Wetseek are unable to free him. At that point, I was ready for something even more exciting to happen. Maybe Itst would reappear or the Seer. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I was excited. But then—it just ended. I felt let down. I wanted to know more, to see more, to experience more of this world. It didn’t feel like the piece had really resolved—but rather that it was cut off.

Overall, though, “Tale from the Land of Frightful Dreams” was a very well-choreographed and performed piece, which did “blur the limits of codified dance forms,” at once bringing together a variety of styles and forming a cohesive and intriguing whole. It will be exciting to see where this piece or other pieces created by Carter’s newly-formed performance company Rumble Motion Jawbone go from here.

Rachael holds a BFA from VCU and will finish her MFA at the U this spring. She regularly contributes to the loveDANCEmore blog and publication.