This is cliché, but when I went to Spurrier Dance Theater to see “Dying and Dying and Dying: A Meditation on Various Endings” last Friday, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that it was the closing event of the InspireDance festival here at the UR featuring the visiting dance company MBDance.
So when I, like everyone in the audience, was greeted by a student who asked me to remove my shoes and get on the stage, I was apprehensive. On the stage floor were small objects (a wooden horse, a bunch of album covers, a toy dinosaur, and more). We were asked to each select one object that reminded us of a deceased loved one and put it on one of the two small carpets at the foot of the stage.
Ambient music played and video art, created by artist Ryan Michael Turek, was projected onto the back wall. It consisted of two separate projections: In one the camera wandered through a graveyard, in the other a woman danced in the woods.
Once everyone was in their seats, then the performance began. A lone performer, Alicia Raquel, delivered a swaggering monologue about death. After Raquel exited, the dancers (Valerie Ifil, Audrey Hailes, Chantal Montilla, and Maria Bauman, who choreographed) entered. To call them dancers isn’t entirely accurate, because their performances were so vocal. They entrancingly sang their way into the beginning, and later listed names of the dead with relish. Later, they simply used mouth sounds, clicking and whistling as they moved. Some moments were done with music (composed by artist Ganessa James), others were silent.
The performance was unapologetically unpredictable. Just as I had accustomed myself to the comforting, ethereal nature of the performance, the mood completely changed. The choreography got violent. Dancers shoved and threw each other. Images of factory emissions and the McDonalds and Starbucks logos were projected onto the back wall. In another unsettling moment, the audience watched an empty stage, listening to the sounds of hysterical sobbing.
I recognize that I am describing my experience rather than reviewing, but it really is the only way to approach this performance. It began as a meditation on death, but the direction it goes is so wildly different. As to what that direction was, I don’t know. I can’t really tell you what it was about. But it was an experience, and a wholly unique one at that.