by Renée Rothman
Local modern dancers Per Haaland and Carol Fields share the bill for a two-for-one concert series at The 418 studio on Front Street. These artists tackle some heady issues as indicated in their titles: the Perfectly Realized Human Being and bipolar Memories. These personal contemplations are kinesthetically and verbally expressed with both pathos and humor.
Per Haaland explores the vagaries of the quest for enlightenment in his suite of dances and video dramas. Haaland provides a poem, spoken and sung at various moments, that indicates the direction in which he is traveling and the tone of his journey:
I can see that you’re seeing
That I’m a perfectly realized human being.
From the look in your eyes
Haaland enters the stage first, as a man who seems to be searching…and is dead tired of it. He flings his body to-and-fro as if by habit rather than enthusiasm and stares blankly around his world. Interspersed with pure dance sequences are short video dramas in which Haaland philosophizes and complains to actor Daniel Mollner. Haaland is also a kind of narrator, appearing for recitations of his poem and his opinions of the limits of spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement.
The highlights for me were in the pure dance sequences. In “Gula Gula” Stephanie Johnson and Evan Adler perform a beautiful duet of young love. Johnson and Adler are perfectly paired dancers both physically and technically and are young artists worthy of our attentions. They characterized the uplifting joy of a newly in-love couple with movements that stretch out to the world and come together again in an embrace. Haaland steps in to indicate that the next sequence concerns marriage. He and Lisa Christensen sit in straight back chairs, staring forward, occasionally trying to connect but not quite remembering how. They dance this struggle out to Meredith Monk’s sometimes disturbing music. Finally, the quartet of old and new lovers meet, trading out partners in various configurations. Are they remembering who they once were and will become as individuals and as couples? In the end, they waltz off, Johnson with Adler, Christensen with Haaland.
The audience also loved Haaland’s humorous banter on a subject they seemed intimate with: the search for enlightenment. Just how perfectly realized can we be, he asks. How much yoga does it take? How many questions need we ask and answer? For an answer to that (it finishes on a laugh) and to experience Fields’ bipolar Memories you will have to attend the next performance!
I was speaking with RD Bolam right before the show and he reminded me of the variety of dance programs The 418 is bringing to the community. Experienced local artists, like Haaland and Christensen, as well as artist from out of town to bring a fresh perspective. The next event, “Tabula Rasa”, features Artist in Residence Leslie Johnson. In November they present their Emerging Choreographers Showcase providing young local artists with the opportunity to perform in one of Santa Cruz’s best little studios. The 418 Project is working hard to bring you an innovative and diverse season of dance. The fact that they are situated next to one of Santa Cruz’s all-time-favorite restaurants—India Joze—makes these nights out irresistible.
For program details, go here.