Project Flux Performs Latest Dance Piece in 'Burned Forest' at MING Studios 

click to enlarge - Project Flux set its latest dance piece amid MING Studios' Contrappunto exhibition. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Project Flux set its latest dance piece amid MING Studios' Contrappunto exhibition.
When Giuseppe Licari opened his exhibition, Contrappunto, at MING Studios Oct. 16, few could have guessed how apt a metaphor his turning the whitewashed interior of a gallery into a charred forest could be.

When National Book Award-winning poet Robin Coste Lewis read from her latest work, Voyage of the Sable Venus, amid the blackened branches pulled from the Pioneer fire burn zone, she described the mock forest as a reflection of her feelings following the bitter disappointment of the presidential election. Project Flux's latest performance, which also took place in Contrappunto, offered yet more reflections.

The performance, Project Flux Meets Contrappunto at MING, was conceived Nov. 7—the day before the election—and performed Nov. 12 and 13; but there are clear lines to be drawn between it and sociopolitical angst. In a crucial moment, dancer Selby Jenkins mounted a singed stump like a lanky Lorax, gazing into the audience in silent opprobrium.

In another, the dancers frolicked through the trees in a game of tag, their grins and heavy breathing at odds with the creepy silence imposed on the room by the burnt trees. Dancer Bayley Brooks cowered in the shadows, her face smeared with soot.

The performance was at its best when the dancers toyed with the concealing properties of the faux forest. Wearing all black, they sometimes disappeared into the branches, peeking out like dryads at the audience. Project Flux has long found artistic leverage in re-imagining dancers' relationships to music, motion and space; in this case, partially obscuring them in a burned forest, where the motion of their limbs could meld with the stillness of the trees, was a master stroke.

The company's lead choreographer and artistic director, Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill, had less than a week to create the dance audiences saw over the weekend. More rehearsal and time for editing would have ironed out some repetitive motions and gestures, making for a more polished whole, but the impermanent nature of Contrappunto made that impossible.

Project Flux traffics in moods and, even with its short preparatory timeline, its performance amid Contrappunto was driven, anxious and occasionally frenetic. The dance company understands feelings strongly felt are never simple: They come in waves, cresting in anger, joy or sadness. They contradict each other. Project Flux's weekend show at MING Studios showed the company is processing something momentous in the deep, dark forest—as are we all.
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