April 16th, “echo::system – treadmill dreamtime; running in place”

Choreography by Grisha Coleman

I’m used to going to performances that don’t adhere to traditional or formal performance orientations.  I’m used to walking into a theater space with the performance already happening.  I’m used to sitting on the side of a stage instead of in front of it.  I’m used to not knowing where to fix my gaze while watching.  

However, I am not used to seeing treadmills on stage.

I attended this performance as a singular event, but each afternoon before the show  YBCA offered an interactive installation for people to reflect on their impact on the natural world.  I also  learned, that echo::system – treadmill dreamtime; running in place is the second installment of a “five-part epic.”  The first, “Abyss,” was performed in 2003.  This kind of extended thinking was evident as well as a density that resonated between various aspects of the performance, which included 3D animation, composed music, fragmented screens, and a metal ramp.  Coleman’s team included performers as well as multiple designers and researchers perhaps reflecting her orientation as a Professor of Arts, Media and Engineering at Arizona State Univeristy.  As I watched, I could sense this weight of thinking and making.

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It’s taken me a while to figure out a response to this dance.  I’ve been sitting with the program notes alongside the scribbles in my notebook.  I think the weight and density of the piece make it difficult for me write as the dance seems to demand some weight in response.  Hence, I start with a question: where is the human?

In the context of echo::system – treadmill dreamtime; running in place, the answer might be found in walking.  Coleman uses walking as her aesthetic impulse: “The choreography depicts an ambulatory narrative that explores the transitional space between urban and “country”environments by following a tribe as they embark on a journey into a mythic desert.”  The human practice of walking is explored in the dance as a technique and ritual.   The grid-like movements reference urban movement that is layered with various groupings, pilings, and processions.  “The human” seems to be located within practices of mobility that have carved out the earth and segmented society.   While I know there is more happening in this piece I just can’t seem to find my way into its density – could Coleman be thinking too hard?

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