By Sarah Genta
Malinda LaVelle’s Project Thrust debuted Kingdom recently at The Garage in San Francisco as a part of the RAW program. And raw it was. LaVelle and her fearless dancers consumed the audience on a ride through a world burdened with both silly and heart-wrenching foibles.
From an awkward lovers’ journey, to a possessive egocentric, to a violated sex-addict, the piece wove in and out of each character’s management of their vice – vanity, greed, etc. These painful displays were shown through spoken text and danced action. They were, thankfully, suspended by intermittent comedic moments during which a character admitted annoyance with her own fixation, or when prop use was so roughly absurd that the audience couldn’t help but laugh (for example, Angela Mazziotta biting off and chewing a hunk of raw onion to emphasize her desperation for attention). Emmaly Wiederholt gave sought after relief with her performance of a character wrapped up in self-reliance. Defiant and ridiculous, the character insisted that she needed the help of NO one, while she stomped around with one high-heel and struggled through a difficult dance phrase. She cracked us up as well as broke our hearts – capturing the fine line between farce and tragedy in any given character flaw.
One image audiences will take home is Madelyn Biven’s performance. She brazenly repeated the same sex-crazed movement and stinging lines, with unabashed drive, for what seemed like two thirds of the two-and-a-half hour show. She thrust herself from chair to wall and back, delivering lines that punctuated her character’s passion, never once abandoning the propulsion and clarity with which she began. In fact, she seemed to grow inside the movement – allowing herself to improvise both the wantonness and the accuracy of her intoxication.
Where LaVelle shows smarts is in her choice of dancers. Where she shows innovation is in subtle choreographic choices. Sexual escapades were cunningly euphemistic, denoted by swing dance-esque spins or bumpy floor tangos. Most of the partnering was more deed-like than dancey. And the use of the multiple entrances and exits was made sense for the piece’s commotion. The whole scene was a peculiar patchwork of black folding chairs, partial nudity, loud breath, an old rug, a skeleton, raucous bangs and stomps, ball gowns, blue jeans and fresh produce. A lighter signified arousal, whistling matches showed quarrel, and drinking beer out of a high heel became a stubborn subversion of what one “can or can’t do!”
The thing that seemed standard was the use of ballet to show-off or to show one’s subordination. Because some moments were so distinctly balletic, we had to decipher whether these were comments on the ballet world itself or, more broadly, used to symbolize some ubiquitous force by which they were bullied, or bullied themselves.
The primary impression of the show was repetition. Almost every singular act that was completed was then repeated, often enough to lose count. Almost nauseatingly. The structure became unsurprising and overly stated. However, by the end of the evening, it was clear that this was affective, even necessary. In their and our exhaustion, we could more completely understand what the piece seemed to state about our own transgressions: imperfections have a defeating tendency to keep coming back and coming back and coming back and coming back. By flooding the audience with repetition, we literally felt this poignant point.
“…Forever!…and always!…” we were mawkishly told as Julia Hollas slowly swayed with the bones and the lights finally faded. We continue to sleep with the same skeletons. We are under their domain, in their kingdom. A discouraging, but successfully crafted, deliberation.
Photo By Brian Henderson
Note: As I both perform with Project Thrust and run Stance On Dance, I feel the need to make it clear that I in no way solicited this review. Sarah Genta, a recent transplant to the Bay Area, came to the show of her own volition, felt compelled to write about it, and took the time to craft this response. Because the state of dance-writing and dance criticism is rather dire, she had few outlets or resources for getting it published. This review literally fell into my lap, and I was honored and happy to be able to publish her review on Stance On Dance and add her voice to the larger conversation. -Emmaly Wiederholt