Evoking memory and the passage of time, Kimberly Bartosik / daela’s THE MATERIALITY OF IMPERMANENCE will have its world premiere this week at DTW’s Bessie Schönberg Theater, on a set dotted with LED lights designed by lighting expert Roderick Murray. The evening-length piece will be performed by Bartosik, Joanna Kotze, and Marc Mann, with music by Luke Fasano. The daela company “is dedicated to rigorous exploration of movement, sound and visual design towards the creation of performances in space-specific environments.” The February 3 show will be preceded by Coffee and Conversation at 6:30, while the February 5 performance will be followed by a discussion with the cast and crew.
February 4 performance reviewed: The oxymoronically titled THE MATERIALITY OF IMPERMANENCE is an existential examination of home and the human psyche. As the audience enters the theater, lighting designer Roderick Murray and composer Luke Fasano are playing Scrabble in the middle of the stage. Once everyone is seated — including in rows to the right and left of the stage, creating a more intimate feel — choreographer and longtime Merce Cunningham dancer Kimberly Bartosik starts making her way downstairs backwards from the back of the crowd while reciting quotes that soon devolve into random word jumbles. Meanwhile, Marc Mann enters, swings a microphone that is dangling from the ceiling, and attempts to talk into it as it passes by, barely missing his head. Bartosik and Mann then spend the next forty-five minutes or so moving around a mazelike stage divided into compartments by LED lights that turn on and off on the floor, being careful to never step directly over them, as if they were walls. They make their way through the “rooms” with sudden, harsh movements, not light on their feet, as occasional snippets of music appear and disappear and they take off their clothes and then put them back on, over and over again. At one point they meet at center stage and maneuver into an erotic position as Bartosik feeds a torn piece of paper to Mann, once again incorporating words and language into the evening-length piece. Then the couple departs, taking seats in the audience as long-legged Joanna Kotze performs a striking dance, paying no attention to the barriers that constrained Bartosik and Mann.
An abstract, avant-garde work that encounters plenty of bumps along the way, THE MATERIALITY OF IMPERMANENCE, commissioned by DTW, is a curiously compelling piece of dance theater. It can go from cold and confusing to warming and inviting in a heartbeat, a visual representation of the word jumble, low-tech music, and mostly unintelligible dialogue that tease the audience. The words might not make sense, but Bartosik hides little else; both she and Mann disrobe several times, Murray (who is married to the choreographer) gives lighting cues from the stage, and Fasano walks around holding up small speakers and placing microphones on the floor that the dancers struggle to talk into.