We've got a couple of disclosures about FrenetiCore and WIRED. First, since Houston Press contributor Adam Castanada, who writes about dance for us, is a member of the FrenetiCore dance company, a usually non-reviewing member of the HP editorial staff (that would be me) steps into the role of reviewer here. We're pretty sure Castanada wouldn't mind performing then dancing then dashing off-stage to write up a few review notes before running back on-stage to dance again, but we thought it best not to ask him.
Second, we're discussing Saturday night's performance here. We attended Friday night's performance for the purpose of reviewing the show. Unfortunately there were several major technical failures (lights, curtains, music, video and computer feeds all went bonkers at various times though the show). FrenetiCore was forced to take an impromptu intermission mid-show in order to address those issues. The result was a significant break in the show's flow. We felt we were unable to fairly judge the dancers' performances under those conditions. We're happy to say Saturday's show was 99 percent glitch-free.
The Set-up: WIRED is built around the idea that trained dancers are rather like highly evolved performance machines. FrenetiCore Artistic Director/founder/resident choreographer Rebecca French built on the idea that "dance and technology are natural partners."
The Execution: The Cirque La Vie started the show. Company director Chole St-Jean Richard and newest company member Michelle Mayo performed a series of solos and duets using a German Wheel (think human sized hamster wheel), aerial hoop and silks. Richard, unsurprisingly, is the more accomplished of the two. Her work on the wheel and silks drew gasps from the audience impressed with her sheer strength and grace. While Mayo shared a nice aerial hoop duet with Richard, she was mostly earth bound (her performance with the silks was limited to dancing around them). Video images of the two projected on to the stage's rear wall added a nice depth to the performance. Although a large space, FrenetiCore's stage did rather limit the Cirque La Vie performance (standing on the aerial hoop the artists' heads were blocked by above-the-stage lights and equipment). We want to see the group in a really large space, where the artists have room to soar. We had the feeling what we saw at WIRED was just a small bit of what the company can do.
The second half of the show was by FrenetiCore. There was a tense moment at the start of the dance group's performance: there was an awkward delay in starting the music for the first segment but it eventually kicked in (60 seconds of dancers standing still on stage, in the dark can seem a very l-o-n-g time).
Several segments make up the FrenetiCore portion of WIRED. Most include the entire company, a few are duets. One stand-out is a work performed by four dancers in the darkness. Wearing hoodies and sweats that are outlined in strings of light, the dancers become animated figures on stage. Live animation using humans onstage - a novel idea that made for a fun and interesting segment.
As is usual for a FrenetiCore show, dancers comes in all shapes and sizes. One segment features two couples in a French Apache-like style. The size difference between the tall Jaime Garcia and rather diminutive Dorianne Castillo added to the drama of their power struggle.
French has told us she doesn't want to spoon-feed her audiences and so her creations are abstract, non-narrative works that allow the viewer to fill in the story. At one point, several of the dancers are on a platform being pushed across stage. They're looking out expectantly into the wings. It reminded us of a band of pirates gleefully chasing down a ship filled with gold, with French at the helm. You can conjure up any narrative you like, but happy pirates works for us.
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French's success as a choreographer is bolstered by her sense of humor. In one segment, four women dancers hang from a platform, their backs to the audience. In nude colored unitards, the dancers become a blank screen over which video images are projected. A blank screen with butts. It's a giggle-worthy moment.
Another of French's strengths is her choice of music. Does the music or movement come first for her? We don't know, but she matches the two extremely well.
The Verdict: The ideas were great. The performers were strong and talented. Between Cirque La Vie and FrenetiCore, we got two very different takes on the intersection between movement and technology. Live video feeds of the artists on stage deepened rather distracted from the performances. Could the technical team have used an extra week to insure all the non-human elements of the show ran smoothly, oh yeah. Are we looking forward to FrenetiCore's next outing? Oh hell yeah.
See WIRED at 8 p.m. March 31 and April 3, 4 and 5. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation. For information, call 832-387-7440 or visit freneticore.net. Pay-what-you-can to $25.