Hunting the Hemo Goblin at Sugar Space

Last weekend, the Sugar Space presented a new work-in-progress by Andrea Dispenziere. The hour-long work, “Hunting the Hemo Goblin,” was comprised of a scattering of vignettes touching on themes of hunter and hunted.

The dance began in a modern setting—the grocery store. As the audience settled into their seats, dancers casually wandered around the stage, “shopping” among tables laden with vitamin water and peeking into a number of tall, cylindrical wire cages that carried labels like “Quinoa” and “Yogurt Pretzels.” From these slow and pedestrian beginnings, the dance gradually developed into a hunting scenario in which dancers pursued their prey across the stage. However, it was not until the performers were given a chance to truly start dancing that the work picked up its momentum. Moving with unrestrained physicality, the dancers displayed impressive commitment and athleticism, though the limited amount of space caused several collisions. The work then took a violent turn, as performers began tackling and throwing each other across the stage—even simulating the cannibalization of a few (presumably weaker) dancers. I particularly enjoyed the number of inventive and surprising ways in which the dancers took each other down; the impact of the dancers colliding—and I mean full on tackling each other—was especially powerful when it happened less than ten feet in front of my face.

In the next section, Dispenziere drew from Greek mythology concerning Artemis, goddess of the hunt, and Actaeon, a hunter who was transformed into a deer and then killed by his hunting dogs. The myth of Actaeon was spelled out in “old-school rap” by a Greek chorus as dancers portrayed the action through gesture and dance. Dispenziere’s rap contained clever lyrics, yet was difficult to hear over the music and some fumbled articulation. Through some inventive rearranging of the wire cages, the dancers transformed the stage, creating forests, waves, and walls. However, under-rehearsed transitions between the configurations made the props seem unwieldy and difficult.

The final vignettes featured strong dance sequences—most notably, a quartet of women performing quick, precise articulations of the arms and torso, as well as a series of overlapping solos accompanied by a Discovery Channel-style narration describing the elusive “Hemo Goblin.” The humorous, meandering text managed to simultaneously amuse and confuse me, and the ending of the dance—in which the audience was invited to come onstage and observe the performers before they were led away, tethered together like cattle—left me with all my questions unanswered. The work incorporates interesting representations of the health food movement, hunting, shopping, consumerism, and mythology, but does not seem to tie them together before its completion. I feel that “Hunting the Hemo Goblin” put forth some provocative images and associations, but ultimately stopped short of articulating a discernible message.

Emily Terndrup