With all that's terrible with the world right now, maybe it's about time for a little absurdity.
In one of the strangest performances in recent memory at the O'Shaughnessy at St. Paul's St. Catherine University, choreographer Rosie Herrera defied convention, stereotypes and sometimes logic in her performance Friday.
The first piece presented by the Miami-based Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre, "Carne Viva," offered a guide on how not to engage in intimate relationships.
Dancer Simon Thomas-Train began it by lifting Ivonne Batanero high into the air for what seemed like an eternity, accompanied by Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You." When his arms began to shake, he let Batanero drop into his arms before he collapsed on the ground. He repeated the lift again and again, with more apparent difficulty each time, until he was spent.
As Thomas-Train lay on the ground, Batanero and two other female dancers approached him delicately, with bags of cheap sandwich bread in their hands, whereupon they patted his sweat with the bread. This continued for some time, ending with the women making sandwiches out of the bread and eating them.
A second duet between Thomas-Train and Batanero continued with a similar physical vocabulary of imaginative lifts and shared weight. Their movements further explored the power relationship between the man and woman, suggesting, perhaps, a codependent relationship.
A third duet, between Batanero and Loren Davidson, went in a different direction, depicting violence between two women. Diverging so much from the earlier sections, the ending felt more like an afterthought.
The solo piece, "Cookie's Kid," featured Herrera herself and was all over the place in its style and structure. It vacillated between sentimental odes and expressionist endurance, with lyricism and over-the-top farce thrown in as well.
Herrera's acting chops made it easier to follow the work's incongruent path. The emotional life she created with her body and facial expressions were infinitely engaging to watch. In moments where she was drawing on memories of her childhood and family, her lyrical movements and the pathos in her demeanor were enchanting.
Herrera's strong stage presence helped smooth over an audience participation moment that didn't go as planned. She was riveting during a section of movement that began as pastiche of a nightclub act and warped into a trance-like state of anxiety and fervor.
And then there was the chocolate bunny Herrera melted with a hair dryer while dressed as the Virgin Mary.
Odd? Perhaps, but this was the kind of piece where pretty much anything could happen.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts writer.