Zoe | Juniper Cracks Your Head Open, Non-Linearly
Our At-Large Arts Editor Jeremy Barker (who saw it in Portland) describes the ways in which Zoe | Juniper have succeeded in integrating a dance work into a porous, chambered installation that seeks to circumscribe memory in the process of remembrance:
…I think this is as good a way as any to approach A Crack in Everything, a complex, provocative, and occasionally stunning dance-installation (the set itself rises to the latter definition, plus there is an actual attendant gallery piece which I did not see). Its central images all focus an unrelenting gaze on experiences, inhabited by the dancers, engaging them over and over again, in a sense chopping up the linear flow of time to demand we consider otherwise fleeting moments, without the comforting sfumato effect memory offers.
I’ve had the relative luxury of digesting the proceedings for a few days, and I can tell you that the complexity doesn’t go away; there’s the idea of examining the “liminal space between action-reaction, cause-effect, and before-after,” and talk of “framing,” but that doesn’t prepare you for your response to the dancer with a red string in her teeth, the extraordinary score from Greg Haines (and sound design by Matt Starritt), or the blasts of light that reset scenes like a circuit breaker. Robert Aguilar’s lighting embodies a kind of untrustworthy narrator–at times burning klieg-strength, at times playing tricks with half-light as you struggle to decipher projection from real movement on or behind walls and scrims.
And what do you make of the retro-Greek costuming from Erik Andor? (Which provides a clue of sorts to the red string of fate, if we’re in that territory–though Scofield’s choreography reminds you that the Greeks didn’t bow before fate, necessarily: They struggled, wrestled with it.)
You may have seen a teaser of the show at The A.W.A.R.D. Show earlier, featuring a temporarily hobbled Zoe Scofield; here, ambulatory again, she scrawls her movement outline across a transparent wall bisecting the stage, in a segment that, as dance, could stand on its own. Yet it doesn’t: There’s almost always something going on (more memories, dreams, reflections) beyond the wall. By now her troupe has internalized their own Scofield (at one point, even though Scofield was still, I couldn’t place where her center of gravity must be), working out her balletic extensions and unballetic contortions, everything wiry, tensile, with a ferocious grace of their own.
Another scene, where Scofield and the eternally-limbed Raja Kelly sit face to face, strip bare-chested, and bark at each other under an opera aria had less impact than when I’d first seen it as an excerpt–maybe that’s in fact because I’d seen it before, and so its power as an irruption of the animal was muted. Speaking of pandering to base urges, Jeremy’s favorite segment was also mine: A hooded figure, moving on right angles like a chess piece, tries to keep four women dancers from reaching one end of the stage–they too have their prescribed movements, beginning again after he picks them up and trucks them backward.
I’m not ashamed to admit the conflict appealed me, during a night in which the sound might drop out entirely for minutes, as time is arrested (a ticking appears and reappears). In one scene, Scofield explores ambivalence or indecision with a mini-corps stuttering about by petit pas, turning this way and that. It’s effective, but in a tugging way, as your sense of time’s progression is altered once more. An audience probably doesn’t spend all that much time thinking about its sense of time; here it does, here it feels turbulent.
About this point in a review, I’d be offering a distillation of some kind. That impulse is defeated by a single viewing of A Crack in Everything. It doesn’t want to distil–despite that gorgeous, horrific image of a fluttering red thread, it remains liminal, associations creating more links, flashing between light and darkness, between operatic vocalization and electronic fuzz.