The four dances in "Take It All On, Take It All Back," performed over the weekend at Fresh Oysters Performance Research in Minneapolis, incorporated video, text, sculpture and other visual and sound elements that were layered into the dance work. The multiple forms at play throughout the evening, curated by Emily Gastineau and Billy Mullaney of Fire Drill, revealed just how much contemporary performance has moved away from traditional categories.
Danielle Ross, from Portland, started out the evening lit by improvised floodlights, which also illuminated large pieces of paper taped to the wall, on which Ross had written notes investigating solo performance. After adding text to one of the pages, she then outlined the shadow of her head onto others, transforming the space into an installation work.
Ross delivered a stream-of-consciousness set of phrases indicating her inner monologue while she moved through a series of poses, taking selfies along the way.
She also read a piece of text about her process — which, along with the writing on the wall, ended up being a lot of telling rather than showing. Her performance of the text didn't match the vulnerability of her words or the intriguing subtlety of the shadow-created images.
Sparkly gold material played a starring role in Megan Mayer's multimedia performance as it cascaded around Mayer's feet in a projected video. Later, Mayer appeared wearing a house dress that she ended up stripping off to reveal a T-shirt and apron, with nothing underneath. In her erotic tease of a dance, feminism burst at the seams of midcentury sexuality.
Jordan Rosenow's piece could just as easily be described as animated sculpture instead of dance, as an assemblage of bricks took the central focus. Performers Alex Chapin and Morgan Peterson paraded down the staircase and ritualistically moved the bricks from two piles into perpendicular lines, passing the bricks as they balanced each other's weight back and forth, their backs together. Rosenow embraced the simplicity of the piece's structure with grand panache.
Finally, Holo Lue Choy, performing in a piece by the group WW (made up of Lue Choy, Shayna Allen and Sophie Keller), exhibited her astonishing intensity in a harrowing performance that included singing that went from silly to disturbing within moments. The accompanying video, by Allen, ended up being a distraction from Lue Choy's riveting live performance. It turns out, additional forms don't in themselves add to a piece, but have to be strategically layered in for the best effect.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis dance critic and arts journalist.