Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Monster Squad/Marty Schnapf: Under an Hour 

In my limited experience with contemporary dance, I have repeatedly encountered the same formal obsession with exploring the relationship between two performers, whether through play or physical assault. The collaboration between Portland-based dance company Monster Squad, painter/installation artist Marty Schnapf and music trio Menomena was based almost solely on this precept, and through the adept combination of choreography, stage design, and sound design, the results were stunning. They took a risk by dividing the hour-long show into three parts, enacted on three different days. Though they left themselves open to the possibility of dwindling crowds and decreasing momentum, they instead found a thoroughly receptive crowd and a building momentum. It was rather refreshing to revisit the same black box day after day, reveling in the inherent contradiction between the title (Under an Hour) and the 72 hour time frame in which these shows occurred.

If you’ve looked at Bryan’s photographs posted earlier on this blog, you already know how potently sensual and delicate these performances were. Confined to an arena demarcated by Schnapf’s sexy orange metallic plates with a relentless LED panel counting down the minutes, the dancers met three different elements over three different days. The first part was performed in several inches of standing water, allowing the dancers to expand the confines of the stage by flinging arcs of water into the surrounding environs. The second part was performed in a thin layer of flour that served as an obliterating force, making the dancers somewhat anonymous as the performance progressed, clothing, hair, face, and limbs coated in ghostly white. I was expecting the third part to take advantage of the tricks of Minimalist light artists like Dan Flavin, or perhaps the drama of James Turrell. Instead, lamps awkwardly tumbled down from the ceiling, the piece crescendoing in a layer of simple lamps hovering over the entire stage. Kudos to the dancers, Mr. Schapf, and Menomena for giving us such a stunning performance.

--Katherine Bovee

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