I took the hike over to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) this weekend to see a contemporary dance show, and it was definitely worth the trip. The ICA, which is located in a huge warehouse-like building right by the water in Boston, is currently surrounded by construction but will hopefully be clear of rubble soon. The building itself is a work of art, a beautiful contemporary building with a huge art installation window at the front, poured concrete floors and an elevator the size of a room.
The show was about an hour and a half long, with two different sections, “Dark Lark” and “The Garden.” The first section was performed by five dancers, and the second by four. Kate Weare, the artistic director of the troupe, explained the meaning behind each piece before the show, which really helped me understand her vision. She explained that the first piece, “Dark Lark,” had been produced to be performed on a stage that jutted out into the audience and was choreographed on a diagonal to the audience. This piece was centered on issues of human sexuality and selfishness. The second piece was more suited to the stage at the ICA and was inspired by the emotions of a human community in the face of nature.
I personally enjoyed “Dark Lark” more. Weare had chosen to have a single cello player, Christopher Lancaster, downstage left, who played all of the music for the piece. The dancers performed in his direction, creating a dialogue between the music and the dance. His playing even created part of the performance, as he used his cello for expressive percussion and caused smoke to rise from the strings as he sawed away through the faster measures.
This piece definitely utilized props to its advantage. The main female solo was of a woman trying to balance a butterfly on different parts of her body. One of the men wore four-inch, lace-up heels during an all-male partner dance, which was one of my favorite parts of the show. The image of this tall man sauntering on stage and completely dominating the other man was incredibly moving. Kate Weare is amazing at these dichotomous images, inciting a feeling of a woman assuming the role of domineering man but using a male dancer to portray this woman. Kate Weare is somehow able to make the audience understand the struggle for power between the two men as the struggle for a woman to overpower a patriarchal society, while having two men play out this relationship. This allows for the woman to hold a position of power, but simultaneously makes us question why it matters who is the dominant one, and even whether the gender of the two people in the relationship matters. Should there be a definition of relationships between men and women, men and men, women and women?
Weare continues this line of questioning further on in this piece. During another male partner dance, the dancers interestingly balance a line between friendship and romance. The two men seem almost like brothers, supporting each other and helping each other along, yet they dance like romantic partners. A similar dichotomy is seen in her female partner dance, where the two women support each other and tenderly back up each other’s actions, while also savagely ripping each other apart with fearless intensity.
Weare explores the contradictory undertones of romantic relationships between men and women as well. Weare’s dancers caress and catch each other while simultaneously commandeering and assaulting each other. A fist clenching an arm is paired with a gentle arm preventing a fall. The subtlety with which the dancers performed Weare’s brilliant choreography brought amazing life to the strange undercurrents of human intimacy, illuminating the faint emotional veins running through our relationships, forcing us to acknowledge the subconscious actions that make or break romances.
The second, slightly older piece, “The Garden,” definitely held its own compared to “Dark Lark.” The set for this piece was even more impressive than the first piece, with a large tree hanging upside down in one corner and a tree stump in the opposite. The four dancers, who were also in the previous set, interacted in a more acquiescent way, connecting and compromising with each other to form a community. However, under the pressure of nature, three of the dancers gang up against one of the male dancers. The savagery of the dancers is chilling, as two of them leave the male to die. However, one of the dancer expresses great tenderness and fragility in convincing the others to let the outcast back into their midst.
Overall, Kate Weare’s performance was a moving piece that made the audience question human sexuality, relationships and gender distinctions, shining through brilliant choreography and solid performances by her dancers. People interested in contemporary dance and those who are intrigued by these compelling, current topics should think about attending one of Weare’s performances in the future.