The Set-Up: Atlanta and Houston-based CORE Performance Company presented The Liberated Accident, an evening in three chapters at the Barn on November 7-9. Accident is the work of guest artist Amanda K. Miller-Fasshauer whose recent return to the United States from Germany prompted the thematic and structural content of the production.
The Execution: Danced in three chapters, Accident weaves a loose narrative journey of self-discovery, love, and the sublime nature of realizing one has arrived home. Miller-Fasshauer proves a strong match for CORE's improvisational aesthetic. The evening opened with the dancers setting the stage with props and the choreographer making an appeal to the audience to turn off their phones. The house lights were still up, but as they faded, I realized that the preparation onstage was part of the show. A dancer asks repeatedly, does this go here? Is this right? Do I start here? The line between performance and reality is blurred, thereby inviting the audience the engage mentally, creatively rather than passively watch.
Chapter One is notable for its sumptuous ensemble work, with CORE's six company actively investigating the space around them with outstretched arms and wandering fingers. There are limbs everywhere, with circular port de bras that encircles the body and deep plies that allows the working leg to extend in handsome angles. The air around each dancer is not merely space to move in, but an extension of the body to explore.
In a brief duet danced by Joshua Rackliffe and Erik Thurmond, they move across the stage back and forth, their fingertips creating a small space filled with energy that is so alive, it's almost palpable. There is a sense of the kinetic that resonates from the stage, which is a result of the company's keen spacial awareness and familial partnering.
Chapter Two, or The Flowering Spirit, is a meditation on love stories, which Miller-Fasshauer explains "we can't live without." Love stories are nice, but real ones are complicated and often lost in translation, which is humorously conveyed through a reading of Agnes Martin's the "Parable of the Equal Hearts."
This section features a masquerade that is anything but passionate, but is filled with a somber sensitivity that borders on lamentation. The movement is hypnotic and the masks are gloomy-exotic, but the unsettling nature of the ensemble work is compelling to watch, as is a solo by the choreographer, which underscores the complex, yet, essential ethos of romance.
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Home is labeled in the program as a structured improvisation, but the dancers handle their solos with such grace and poise, the final chapter might as well have been called rehearsed choreography. Again, the point of initiation for much of the vocabulary seems to be the fingers. Those wandering, beseeching fingertips begin the wave of momentum that propels the dancers through space; even in duet it's the extremities of the body that inform the direction of the dance, not the cumbersome, forced patterns of standard lifting/partner work.
There is a journey of self-discovery that the viewer is constantly aware of, but what is even more resonant is the way these dancers move. They are weightless, yet, solid. Airy, yet, rooted to the earth. The upper body is flighty and whimsical while the lower body is concentrated and connected to the realm of the everyday. The flow generates a spirit that is wholly nurturing, probably because it stems from the ethereal world of the imaginary.
The Verdict: I have yet to mention that CORE's performance involved several intriguing props, including an armful of arrows, a tapestry depicting an enigmatic forest, and an umbrella of glistening pink cherry blossoms. They are meant to ground the movement in Miller-Fasshauer's story, but they are mysterious enough in their symbolic meaning to allow the viewer to shape their own respective journeys.
The Liberated Accident is beautiful because it allows the audience to take ownership of the experience, to shape the movement into a narrative of wonder that best suits each individual reality. One might say the improvised nature of the choreography and the inherent resistance to a defined plot presents a series of loose ends, but with so many lovely things to see, I don't think I'd want those ends to be any tighter.