Satellite Collective – dedicated to presenting performing, visual and literary arts – has assembled a well-represented, multi-disciplined, fifth-season show at the BAM Fisher space. For such a young group, their attention to detail, presentation and live music is especially impressive. Though the nature of the collective seems to be that it is a constantly rotating cast of supporting characters, this show felt cohesive in its structure and approach – if occasionally immature in its content.
Following a solo cello performance by David Moss (of a piece composed by Bill Ryan) and a poem written and recited by Nathan Langston, was choreographer Esme Boyce’s Emergence, a dance piece complemented by a live score and projections of growing flowers and time-lapsed wood scenes. Ms Boyce has assembled a cast of four finely-tuned dancers, all of whom share a body type not unlike a flower itself: willowy, their limbs laced with nuance. The continuity between the flora projections, Sue Julien’s costumes (open-backed beige leotards with tulip-esque ruched shorts) and Ms Boyce’s carefully visual choreography was welcome, but the movement occasionally felt stifled by such strict attention to a motif. There was little plasticity of torso or change in dynamic from the highly-structured group poses, long arabesque lines and precisely curved port de bras. The dancers’ faces showed little change from their stern (almost dour) beginnings – which felt at odds with themes of springtime growth and new life.
Ms Robertson’s projections could also, on occasion, be too distracting. (This often seems to be the case when images are projected during a dance, I find.) A moment of nice symbiosis occurred when the dancers faced their open backs to the audiences and clumped their bodies together, to form a small screen for particular projections.
Manuel Vignoulle’s Rituals fared slightly better (following another musical performance and a short stop-motion film), though not without first indulging in some tried-and-trite choreographic gimmicks. Three men and three women, skillfully costumed in slate suits and dresses, respectively, first appear to be on the prowl in a gritty nightclub scene. The women each take a turn downstage – clad in heels, no less – shimmying and slinking like femme fatales. Mr Vignoulle’s exploration of “the volcanic beginnings of relationships” certainly began with a not-so-subtle simmer of sexuality, but it didn’t feel like anything authentic.
When each of the couples paired off to perform duets, however, Mr Vignoulle began to stretch his choreographic legs a bit. Each of the three duets explored a different facet of couplings: vulnerability (this couple placed a stretchy t-shirt over both their heads for the length of the section), chemistry (demonstrated by explosive, powerful choreography) and power (with some impressively daring lifts). Though the piece felt too long – it was 22 minutes, according to the program – it didn’t truly hit its stride until all six dancers rejoined each other on stage for a unison finale. Mr Vignoulle has a particular gift for partnering.
He also had the best marriage of dance and projection. According to his program notes, his black-and-white geometric projections were created using mathematical formulas. They managed to be intriguing without distracting, suitable and yet also sleek.
Overall, it was a well-paced evening, and I can understand Satellite Collective’s desire to appeal to a larger crowd (and to encourage collaboration) by presenting a number of disciplines within one show. But it did seem, more than once, as if these disciplines were competing for the audience’s attention – and they each deserved it in full.
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