The conceptual breadth of Control Group Production’s Salon series is formidable, and well reflected in its multifarious applications, but finding an entry point into the discussion is surprisingly smooth. While the approach(es) used by the organization may be considered confusing, the topics are familiar and dear to the hearts of most: Understanding, construction, and acceptance of self; this self’s many potential places in the perceived environment outside of the body; and fraught exposure to other in-process and relatively bodied selves.
There are three visible actors– two dancers and one music-maker– in this final installation of the Salon Romantik series entitled CREATION (re-creation) which was performed on January 24, 2015 at the Dairy Center for the Arts. During Act I, The Void, the female dancer makes her own way to standing from a prone, vine-held position on the floor with movements gradually increasing in energy and intensity. She recognizes and individually tests fingers and toes, then hands and feet, then arms and legs, until she is in charge of her body. She spins wildly until dizzy, then staggers to orient herself. Her hair covers her face, but one thinks her eyes are closed as she senses her position relative to the world around her.
When the male dancer becomes part of her on-stage world, she reacts strongly and in ways recognizable as sexually-oriented attention-seeking. These tropes are twisted, though, into garish and awkward reactions that culminate in a seizure-type physical (and presumably mental) breakdown. Dancer Taylor Ann excels at awareness of the impact of all her that moves, from hair ends to toe-tip positioning. Interestingly, some of the torn tissues and spewed pebbles she produces are later picked up and even tasted by the male dancer. It was an act of seeming kindness on his part and an apparent effort to approximate and therefore gain insight into her experience.
Act II has the woman on the balcony, directing a spotlight onto the male dancer. Once singled out, he seems to have no choice but to perform, and his performance is unnatural and forced. It is a credit to the dancer (Patrick Mueller himself, I believe) that the impression of wrongness here is so cleanly and elegantly conveyed. The farcical music-hall solo that follows is a wonderful and distressing bundle of individual expression, ability, and need, wrapped up in horrible restrictions and imposition. While it appeals to you with its charm, his grin is also recognizably desperate.
Alternative forms of movement are explored throughout, with eerie and unsettling results. A four-legged scramble recalls The Exorcist and a wonderfully graceful combination of Downward Dog pose and the Worm are some of these. In Act II, the male dancer wraps his hands behind his ankles in order to move his bent body about. He manipulates his limbs as he previously manipulated lengths of wood into a balance-beam path, and the game blocks in the Pre-Show (from which he constructed a fine collection of tiny buildings). In Act III, the dancers use each other’s bodies as platforms and facilitators of movement.
While overseen (and somehow compelled?) by the (abrasive, if impassioned) personage who remains on the balcony, the two dancers each have largely individual turns on the stage and then come together for the final act. Watching this final act, I wondered: What is the nature of the interaction between the two dancers? Are they parts of a whole, or in direct relationship to one another, or quite separate and simply sharing space and concerns? After reflection, I concluded that all of these descriptors, and more, are appropriate.
That’s a large part of the difficulty one may face in trying to codify this performance and, I imagine, the Salon series as a whole. There is no single answer, just as there is no single way to experience what it is to be a thinking, feeling, moving, creative, destructive, human. As a viewer/participant, try to let go of the (understandable!) urge to define what is “going on” and appreciate the multiplicity of active threads in the performed weaving.
Pick a thread that you like, or that somehow captures your attention, and think about it. See where the thread goes and try to determine whence it came. Observe how it changes and informs, and is informed by, other threads. For example, what draws your eye? In order to survive the onslaught of information and stimuli to which we are almost constantly subjected, our brains learn to filter what it takes in and what it discards. With upper and lower storeys of live action, carefully considered sets, a wide range of music and vocals, and a four-feed video projection screen, you have compelling choices.
Do you find yourself drawn to the screen images of the performer, rather than the performer? Why? Do you feel like the figure on the balcony, able to encompass different viewpoints with one set of eyes, as you watch the multi-feed? Is that a pleasurable feeling? Are you disturbed or enlivened by some or all of the music/sounds? Do you find yourself concentrating on that, more than the dancers? Are you annoyed, amused, or nonplussed by people wearing horse head masks?
Act III is entitled Capitulation. I admit that was not the impression with which I was left. Although the end (SPOILER ALERT) results in a return to work as usual– the work of looking for weaknesses in an existing structure and how to repurpose its parts (his job), and reassembling a dismantled attempt at self-actualization (hers)– there is still satisfaction to be found. Traded lifts start powerfully before fading in strength and becoming almost an embrace as the dancers finally rest against each other. If they have been placed together and made to perform, still they found (or created?) something that was likely unintended by the instigator; something that was theirs.
Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.