The ten-year-old girl on my right spent this performance fidgeting and checking the time on her cell phone. I felt sorry for her as I occupied myself by re-imagining every aspect of Flight of Mind.
First, the set: I loved that Flight of Mind was staged in front of a wall of windows at dusk, incorporating natural light and causing the dancers’ movements to be partially dictated by the earth’s rotation, like the flight schedules of the migratory birds that inspired the piece. Wispy non-native plants in white gallon-sized buckets all but disappeared against the green wall beneath the windows. I would have painted the wall behind the plants a contrasting color so that the plants had as much presence as the hideous buckets. The buckets seemed to illustrate the idea that nature is at the mercy of a species that sees the future in plastics, but this could have been communicated with more visual impact. The beauty of Disjecta is that artists are allowed, even encouraged to experiment with the space, leaving marks and erasing the distinction between art and venue. I could imagine a messier, more natural set with human intervention represented through more interesting, well, disjecta (Latin for scattered fragments). The dancers would then have to rethink the part of the show where they each pick up two buckets and swing them around in unison, but they should rethink that anyway.
Then, costumes: At one point the dancers did make visually successful use of human castoffs, donning skirts made of knotted plastic bags, holding hands and breaking into a Swan Lake-y little dance. Though made of a different kind of plastic, the skirts were reminiscent of the plastic six pack rings that are well known as a bird strangulation threat. This playful, complexly referential moment was a welcome break after an hour or so of painfully serious dancing. The top halves of the outfits–camouflage duck hunting shirts and falling apart-chic knit sweaters in variegated browns worked as an interesting use of street clothes as costume. Less successful was the decision to wear matching brown and green plaid capri pants that, despite the color scheme, had a very man-made aesthetic and were distractingly trendy. Sometimes the dancers looked more like collective farm workers who had eaten hallucinogenic mushrooms and decided to reenact an Old Navy commercial together than professional dancers. In fact, an experimental workshop vibe permeated the whole endeavor. At the pre-show downstairs the crowd mixed with dancers who operated in loose groups, pairs or alone, going through motions that I knew were related to the migratory patterns of birds and whales. In Disjecta’s cavernous wood-floored warehouse, amid the crowd but seeming oblivious to it, they were more evocative of ghosts than birds, but that worked well too. Except for their costumes–jeans and plain colored t-shirts. To have them mix with the crowd in their own random clothes would have been interesting, further collapsing the distinction between audience space and dance space and creating an element of surprise when someone started rolling or convulsing. To have them in costumes that reinforced the intended tone of the piece would have created a striking contrast between audience and performer. The middle ground approach was just boring.
Finally, the dancing: should have been weirder, more animalistic and more awkward. Or more like patterns themselves–graceful, mathematical. Again, the movements fell in-between and the work felt unfinished.
Jessica Bromer