Myriad Dance, co-founded and -directed by Temria Airmet and Ashlee Vilos, debuted its evening-length show Doors at Sugar Space Arts Warehouse. The evening was divvied up amongst Myriad’s core choreographing members, resulting in three segments (Doorway I, Doorway II, and Doorway III). The name “Doorway” referenced the host of doors onstage that were hand-painted by local artists, and each one unfolded with varying degrees of completeness.
Doorway I, Airmet’s “Blame the Youth”, introduced the audience to the stage-scape of doors, the dancers clad in a spectrum of over-sized T-shirts. In a brief opening vignette, Kendall Fischer toyed with a collection of keys she pulled out of her shirt pocket. As she began dancing, the collection of keys flew, unacknowledged, out of her pocket and was left strewn about the stage. To the bombastic tune of Kanye West, dancers commenced a series of pedestrian repetitions, often returning to face the audience straight on while running in place. Here the piece did not dwell upon any postmodern sense of ironic juxtaposition, and quickly meandered onward.
Dancers muttered under their breath, wringing their hands. Fischer spoke of what was presumably an embarrassing monkey bar accident. The group pounded on the doors positioned around the stage, only to find them locked and unanswered, and then formed a human pyramid reflective of Fischer’s playground anecdote. “Blame the Youth” scratched at a wealth of personal experiences, but the patchwork of performative choices that feigned embarrassment, pleading, joy, and a host of other emotions diluted the more potent snippets of Fischer’s monologue. The sections involving dancing without heavy emotional directing felt the most genuine, such as a confident trio featuring elastic side leaps and the occasional smirk.
Doorway II, “The Theory of o-o*” (*a graphic representation of super-string theory), was a choreographic collaboration between past collaborative partners Ashley Creek and Symmer Andrews. Their costuming choice was odd (orange leggings with sky blue sarongs tied at the waist), but Creek and Andrews made more compelling use of the doors than had yet to be seen. Two dancers came bursting through a door in the split second before it was pushed away, a dancer shot through a doorway into a strong plank, a duet repeatedly slithered through a doorway and back again. A duet I could have seen over and over again featured Elle Johansen and another dancer who quickly chopped their arms through the air then dipped into an arabesque-turned-forward somersault. Happily, this short duet occurred twice, though I wanted more of these contributions to what could have been a richer choreographic fabric.
Doorway III, choreographed by Ashlee Vilos, was the program’s most substantial work. While the first two felt like fragments even at their conclusions, Vilos wove her thoughts more cohesively throughout three sub-sections (“Me and My Monster”, “Door to Death”, “Forgive You”). As its sub-titles could belie, Doorway III dealt with the idea of “skeletons in the closet” or in this case, a rickety, pieced-together mannequin torso. A trio in party dresses (some of the group’s most effective performers: Airmet, Andrews, and Creek) began timidly, regarding the closeted mannequin with apprehension before bringing it out center stage. Abruptly but with a convenient change in the music, the three began to happily dance with it. A new group of dancers went through the same progression, proceeding to dance while cradling its dismembered arms before shutting it back in the closet.
At a change in scene, Vilos made her way out of a doorway flanked by two cloaked, hooded figures. Drawing in audible, sharp breaths, Vilos contracted, spiralled, dropped suddenly, and liquidly snaked in the most visceral display of movement seen yet. A dynamically varied as well as emotionally engaging performer, Vilos radiated a passion-infused, emotionally-heightened drama that I had not previously found as convincing in the performances of some of her cohorts. Even when she sat, gesturing, on a torso upstage while a group danced fully in front of her, my eyes were drawn to Vilos and the conscious narrative found behind her gaze.
In one of the final scenes, Airmet was left with a lapful of dismembered mannequin parts, which she fumbled with while stumbling around to the group’s droning hums. Suddenly shouting, “None of these are mine!,” Airmet seemed to take even herself by surprise with her wild outburst. Airmet’s performance was specific and confident as she went around the stage returning limbs to their rightful owners and exchanging words about forgiveness with each one. A thrashing solo danced well by Charity Wilcox led into a final group unison section, throughout which I found myself both intently watching Vilos and also wondering why a gap existed between Vilos’ performance and those of many in the group.
While narrative content appeared high on the list of choreographic priorities, honing of performative specifics (what, why, how) could have contributed to more believable performances from the group as a whole. Throughout the evening, the music and voice-over narrations fed the audience a rollercoaster of feelings, but never fully explained themselves by way of the choreography or individual performances. I would be interested to see an iteration of Doors that used all of its working parts more cohesively and more clearly mined its existing narrative ore.
Amy Falls is the program coordinator for loveDANECmore. Additionally she is a choreographer and performer most recently seen in the Utah Opera's production of "Aida."