February 9, 2014 - Khecari and The Humans guided viewers through an often unsettling fantasy during their double bill at the Dance Center at Columbia College February 7-9, 2013. Mouths agape in horror, stifled sounds, and silent screams recurred during the series, tying together three disparate works.
Khecari led the evening with Julia Rae Antonick’s cresset: vibrant, rusting, a surreal exploration of the body, wherein dancers squirmed and struggled to creepy, slow-motion sounds created by Joe St. Charles, who was placed rather inconspicuously on stage. Khecari dancers then performed Jonathan Meyer’s Esther & the Omphali, a piece defined by its quirky yarn beards, athletic partnering, and accompanying live accordion music. The lineup concluded with the Humans performing Rachel Bunting’s my my gray sky, an eerie concoction that seems to successfully transport the viewer directly into someone’s nighttime dreams, with an unnerving series of events tied together by familiar tropes that peak out in all the right moments.
Khecari’s Danielle Hammer, Maggie Koller, Chih-Hsien Lin, and Jordan Reinwald seemed like mannequins animating and exploring their newfound movements at the start of cresset: vibrant, rusting. The four women performed on raised platforms or in a square of light, as if on display as they struggled against their own bodies. They moved as though their limbs were bound by rubber bands pushing against the imaginary resistance. However, as time progressed, tropes of death and decay become more apparent, the dancers writhing as if rising from the grave. The struggles heightened and culminated in visceral expressions of pain and horror. cresset: vibrant, rusting manages to somehow elicit both repulsion and attraction to the movements on stage.
Esther & the Omphali’s costuming, designed by Jeff Hancock, intrigued. The elaborate yarn creations worn by Josh Anderson and Edson Cabrera added personality, but they also at times heightened a sense of suffocation and struggle, conveyed by the dancers’ stifled grunts, purposefully woven throughout. Musician Sarah Morgan interacted with the dancers as she performed the accompanying accordion music. Meyer’s skill for partnering again emerged in this work with its difficult man-on-man lifts, plus moments when Anderson and Cabrera practically tossed one another around. The sheer strength of these two dancers, combined with the emotion of their movements, leaves a strong impression on the viewer.
The Humans closed the evening with the dream-like my my gray sky, which at times devolved into the nightmarish, but always grounds itself with the light-hearted and familiar. The primary string pulling the movements together was an energetic and adorable little girl, seven-year-old Vera Brenneman, who ran and danced about, wholly oblivious to the more disturbing moments unfolding around her on stage. The work is disturbing, with strange impressions evoked by expertly implemented props. Yet, the familiar always feels inexplicably rewarding. It is a remarkable feat to make an audience feel as though witnessing someone’s dream—nightmarish as it may become—by creating that foreign, yet familiar mix that dreams often elicit.
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts