Stevie Nicks, disheveled beehive wigs, red lipstick, thrift shop couture, a piano that seems to play itself. These are just a few of the images the performance duo HIJACK imprints onto your brain in the Walker Art Center world premiere “redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye.”
On Thursday night, Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder kicked off a three-night celebration of 20 years of making slyly witty dances that appeal to the cultural-reference geek within.
A fascinating aspect of this work is its simultaneous vintage flair and futuristic vibe. Imagine an early 1960’s evening at New York’s Judson Church (the crucible for postmodern dance) injected with a 21st century DIY aesthetic.
Improvisational encounters, fine-tuned choreography and a constant, even subversive encouragement of the awkward and accidental all co-exist within the stripped down onstage world created by Van Loon and Wilder.
The evening is a stream-of-consciousness blend of new concepts as well as remixes and excerpts from previous projects. There are recurring choreographic themes but they seem fresh in different contexts. And while some stretches of “redundant” are made up of movement explorations that go on too long, it is difficult to discount these tangents when Van Loon and Wilder are involved. They rigorously examine ideas from every possible angle and refuse to limit themselves to just one or two interpretations.
Jennifer Arave and Morgan Thorson are among the seven performers who join HIJACK in this venture and both are particularly adept interpreters of the intimate kinetic language that Van Loon and Wilder have forged over two decades.
Thorson scoots, stomps and shimmies through the piece, at one point holding a ballet barre over her head while standing on one leg, her face set with fierce determination.
Arave is Thorson’s nemesis (they square off against one another in two sections). She’s a compact speedster who flits impatiently within the space.
As “redundant” winds down we see more and more of Van Loon and Wilder supporting, upending, guarding and respecting one another in their dancing. Like many successful collaborators they have complementary yet distinct qualities (Van Loon is a daredevil, while Wilder has a more grounded stance) but where they have really succeeded is in keeping each other challenged. Few artistic partnerships last as long as this one, which seems stronger than ever.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.