(photo: Paul H. Taylor)
In TULA, Stefanie Nelson (stefanie nelson Dancegroup) and composer Wendy Leigh Wilf delve into the chakra system--the alignment of energy centers widely known through yoga and New Age practices. The seven fundamental chakras ("wheels") start at the base of one's feet and are stacked like rungs along the spine. Each chakra serves as an inlet/outlet, storehouse and processing center for etheric energy and....
Did you stop reading at "etheric?" My own background in esoteric pursuits gives me away, doesn't it?
It's also what drew me to Nelson's season at Triskelion Arts, a reasonable enough premise for a new dance. Couldn't we all use a little balance (tula), right about now?
Structured as seven parts that flow one into the next, Tula, expresses the nature of each chakra through movement and sound. In Chakra 1: To Have, for instance, Nelson keeps us constantly mindful of the ground/earth through deep pliés, collapses, hops, tests of balance, and noisy shuffling and footfalls. Wilf's percussion starts off spare but suggestive of weight giving into gravity--ba-DUM...ba-DUM...ba-DUM--eventually building up rhythms reminiscent of house music. Chakra 3: To Act, Nelson's most clever and visually dramatic, depicts a frenzy of rockstar/acolyte dynamics. That fiery chakra, her notes tell us, governs "personal power, will and self-esteem," and she certainly demonstrates how it can go awry.
Unfortunately, in execution, TULA looks uneven and unconvincing, even undercooked. One should feel the chakras and feel the dancers feeling them, not just going through the motions, however well. In a funny way, we should really forget that they are dancers and, instead, be moved to remember that they and we are, each one of us, chakras.
TULA continues tonight and tomorrow with performances at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.
Performers: Erik Abbott-Main, Emily Giovine, Mor Mendel, Ali Schechter, and Benjamin Wolk with Alex Clair, Marissa Nigro and Amanda Reichert. Lighting design: Andrew Dickerson
Muriel Schulman Theater
106 Calyer Street (between Clifford Place and Banker Street), Brooklyn