Thursday, November 14, 2013

Will Rawls: Shuttling between "downtown" and Serbia

Dance artist Will Rawls
In 2008, I went to the Balkans for the first time and, in some ways, never came back. It was also the summer that Obama was running for president.
The Planet-Eaters is a choreographic investigation of folklore to encounter ourselves as different kinds of performers who are neither here nor there, neither expert nor amateur, both singular and plural, both ancient and new.
--Will Rawls, excerpts from program notes for The Planet-Eaters
In the exceptionally elegant body of American dancer Will Rawls, the folkloric dance rhythms and rituals of the Balkans reveal a lush complexity. Rawls and his musical collaborator, Chris Kuklis, duet in The Planet-Eaters: the dancer entering the realm of music via a twisty, vocalized system of counting beats and his pulled-up posture and lighter-than-air trotting, prancing, pivoting; the musician sharing physical space and elaborate movement and even aggressively manipulating props. Both men go where they "don't belong," and they do so heartfully and beautifully.

With the few audience rows forming a broad crescent curved around one long side of The Chocolate Factory's performance space, and the dancers getting particularly rambunctious in the latter part of the work, you might say there's even community involvement in all this. Come expecting a solo dance turn by a star of the "downtown" arts scene--a strange expectation here, since folk dancing is a communal kind of thang--and you actually become part of a highly textured fabric of witness and support. And then there's the matter of your own feet and the way an eventually sweaty, panting, slip-sliding Rawls might ram right into them. And Kuklis? At one point, he flaps and thrashes a huge patch of Astroturf in your general direction. It gets to be a hot mess up in there--especially when everything takes a turn into a cross between house culture and Old Europe shamanism--assisted by Saša Kovacevic's fanciful costuming--in a suddenly darkened space. About the only weak link is Rawl's lengthy spoken word passage in the middle of the show; the narrative is intriguing, but his voice could use more oomph.

with lighting by Bessie Award winner, Madeline Best

The Planet-Eaters continues through Saturday evening: SOLD OUT. For complete information on this program, click here.

For information on future presentations at The Chocolate Factory, including Jon Kinzel's Someone Once Called Me A Sound Man (December 4-7), click here.

The Chocolate Factory
5-49 49th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens
(map/directions)

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