At first, it sounded like a gimmick: After the intermission, a crew handed headphones to the audience at Project Flux's 2016 show on June 3 at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy Annex. The headphones, explained stage manager Julie Bean, allowed people to switch between two "soundscape" channels.
"You can choose your own adventure," she said.
Project Flux, which was founded in 2013, has an unusual relationship with sound. Choreographer and founder Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill has said she typically appends music late in the choreography process. Often, her pieces are scored with ambient music mixed with spoken word, which was true of "navigate. auditory. system. alignment. (nasa)," which debuted June 3. It's a dance that examines the intuitive relationship between dance and music, performers and audiences, pivoting between a cooing, sentimental soundscape and speeches on the space race set to a beat.
"Nasa" is a dance full of doubt, pairing ambitious forward momentum with a tendency to reminisce. It parallels the path of dancer Evan Stevens, who began dancing three years ago and has come into his own as a presence onstage. Stevens' style is organic and explosive, though it has started to temper, and his performance in the new piece showed him interacting more in unison with other dancers without backing off from his physicality.
The June 3 performance also brought back "mansion. apartment. shack. home. (mash)," which debuted in 2014, and the popular "successive. stagnant.," which had its debut as part of Ballet Idaho's New Dance, Up Close program earlier this year. Like "Nasa," these dances were an odd mix. "Mash," which about the conflicts men and women face, features a small cast of dancers and intimate themes, while "successive. stagnant." showcases Sakolsky-Basquill's sense of humor and big, synchronized sequences with large ensembles.
An outlier in terms of style, Project Flux has made strong connections with other local dance companies—it shares a performance space and numerous dancers with Ballet Idaho, for example—and proven to be a training ground for up and coming dancers like Stevens and Selby Jenkins. Salkolsky-Basquill's "Nasa" also mixes elements to create something that looks (and sounds) natural: "Nasa" is not a divergence for the young dance company; it's a metaphor for it.