REVIEW The choreographer's new work courts disorder as it combines individual moments and group discoveries.
We often hear that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, but how often is this idea tested? With "Spaceholder Festival" at Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis, choreographer Morgan Thorson uses the concept to expose the mechanics of her creative process.
While the approach reveals layers of connections among behavior, movement and setting, what matters most in this world premiere is the subtle elegance of its moment-to-moment changes. The parts really do add up to something bigger than expected.
Thorson is a no-nonsense dance maker with a sly pop-culture consciousness. The two-time Sage Award winner sifts through ideas with efficiency and instills a nonchalant confidence in her performers. She is not intimidated by disorder -- in fact, she courts it. All of these qualities were present in Saturday's show featuring the up-for-anything cast of Jessica Cressey, Hannah Kramer, Karen Sherman, Kristin Van Loon and Max Wirsing.
The work gets off to a sinister start. Kramer wields a carving knife and the shuffling dancers, dressed in layers of form-fitting clothing, look like down-on-their-luck trapeze artists with their holey hosiery (a costume item that figures prominently). But then Thorson makes a calculated shift. The movement, all straightforward pedestrian aspects and balletic filigrees, opens up more broadly onto the stage -- marked entirely as a grid. The looming threat gives way to opportunity. There is suddenly room for group exploration and self-discovery.
The remainder of the evening focuses on sorting, adapting and abandoning, accompanied by everything from Sxip Shirey's sonic experiments or an auctioneer's chatter to music of the Doobie Brothers and Led Zeppelin. As the dancers encounter one another, and piles of clutter (shoes, pillows, pieces of foam stuffing) invade the space, they must make decisions about how to handle obstacles big and small, real and metaphorical. They respond in various ways -- intimate gestures or perhaps the thud of a full-body toss across the floor. There's a certain amount of customization, since Thorson has worked with several of these dancers before.
More and more, Thorson is focusing her choreography in challenging new directions, and "Spaceholder Festival" is no exception. She seems intent on taking a journey instead of achieving resolution, an impulse that allows time to delve into the idiosyncratic or underused details that inspire her; details we might well miss without her pointing them out.
Caroline Palmer writes regularly about dance.