Who: Stefanie Batten Bland
What: World premiere of BAC commission
Where: Baryshnikov Arts Center digital
When: Through Monday, May 17, 5:00, free
Why: In a March 2019 interview with her alma mater, Goddard College, choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland said, “I am a storyteller; I mean, I don’t shy away from that. I love being able to tell stories that we can find ourselves in. I don’t know if they’re necessarily linear stories, but I think that’s another way that we can validate who we are, when we identify with someone, or with something, and I kinda like to go about it through a common goal. So I’ll often ask audience members and performers to work towards a goal, and that could be like lifting something up together.” Born and raised in Soho, Bland has been busy during the pandemic, even without the ability to present pieces in front of an in-person audience. With Company SBB, she created This Moment for Works & Process at the Guggenheim, Current for Duke Performances, and Unnatural Contradictions for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, set in the Osborne and Woodland Gardens. In addition, Mondays at Two explored how the health crisis affected members of the company, which was founded in France in 2008 and established in New York City three years later. Her latest dance film is the fantastical Kolonial, commissioned by Baryshnikov Arts Center and filmed in BAC’s Jerome Robbins Theater. The twenty-minute work is set in a dark, ominous, postapocalyptic world where seven people are trapped in bubble pods, their clothing in tatters, a threatening musical drone hovering over them. As a baleful blue morphs into a more hopeful orange, the music shifts, along with the characters’ emotional physicality.
Kolonial is directed and choreographed by Bland and codirected and filmed by Jean Claude Dhien, with scenic installation by Conrad Quesen, costumes by Shane Ballard, and music by Grant Cutler; it is performed by Bland, Miguel Anaya, Yeman Brown, Rachel Watson Jih, Jennifer Payán, Paul Singh, and Latra A. Wilson. “It’s something that’s in the now, that’s happening right now,” Bland says in her video introduction. “It’s a story of isolation, of separation, of being on display, of viewership, of voyeurism, of desire to touch. And isn’t that also a story of before . . . and before . . . and before.” It’s a bold and powerful work, with haunting sound and imagery, that ultimately finds there just might be light at the end of the tunnel. But then what? Kolonial is available for free though May 17; be sure to also check out the May 11 conversation with Bland and writer and curator Eva Yaa Asantewaa.