– review – review

“thirty seven isolated events”

Concept, choreography, direction: Paige Startling Sorvillo (SF)

Concept, media environment: Lucy Hg (LA)

Composition, sound environment, Liz Allbee (Oakland), Susan Hawkins (Australia)

May 22-31, 2008

CounterPULSE, SF

Part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival

How are globalization and the advent of network technology impacting our own bodies? How are we complicit in socio-political violence taking place half a world away? Or right here at home? And how can we begin to re-inhabit our global networks to create everyday intimacy rather than amplified conflict? Paige starling sorvillo’s “thirty seven isolated events” silently speaks to these questions on an extremely visceral level. Integrating the language of contemporary butoh dance with stunning live video and an original sound score, sorvillo and her collaborators create a sense-saturated exploration of the intimacy and violence in our world.

“thirty seven” begins with the normal running temperature of the human body (37 degrees Celsius) and gradually fabricates a facsimile, or virtual, body. According to sorvillo, “Within the noise of networked society, our intimate distance and distant intimacy induce a virtual, or mediated, sensibility. We are anesthetized – our breath mechanized – as our human biological system is hybridized with the global system. At thirty-seven degrees Celsius, we have an unprecedented potential to connect, to risk, to make contact inside the noise.”

It’s too bad that audiences don’t get a chance to read press releases. How else to “see” all the layers of thought, or at least, intention, within brainy, experimental works like this? Sorvillo has brought together a very interesting soundscape, video that adds texture as well as narrative, and dancers who are easy in their coltish bodies. However, for all its ideas, “thirty seven isolated events” as a dance piece, resembles nothing much more than people walking around, lying on the ground, coming together into sensual and comforting groupings in the midst of a media bath.

The frustration of video used in many dances is that a viewer must choose to ignore the powerful lure of projected images if one is to keep up with the live performers. With butoh-based slo-mo minimalism at work here, however, there is no such dilemma, which is a good thing. Also, to Sorvillo’s credit, she manages to cook-up an ambience that is at once political and meditative, a world where organic movements are never pushed into even a moment of jarring “danciness”. Still, there has to be a more profound way to communicate global socio-political violence than to have performers continually falling onto the floor.

Best moment in the piece: One dancer’s back, muscularity undulating like some kind of backwards bellydancer, is videotaped live and then projected onto the naked back of another. The color projection of moving muscle onto a skin screen is both creepy and fascinating

enigmatic narrative content

a slow whisper

the score is ominous

a section finally breaks into quickness

dancers look like stobe-lit animated creatures

bodies in semi-dark

eagles flying above a blueprint of a city

slinking dancers

ragdoll looseness


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Mr. Simpson has a BA in Journalism from the University of Southern California and worked as an advertising writer in Los Angeles before moving to New York to pursue a different passion: dance. He danced professionally in New York and Boston before founding a community-based modern dance company, Small City Dance Project, in Newburyport, MA. His fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. He was a teaching fellow at Smith College, where he received his MFA in choreography. While living in the Bay Area for 15 years, he wrote about dance for the San Francisco Chronicle and other periodicals. In 2005, he was a NEA Fellow at the Dance Critics Institute, American Dance Festival. For, he reviews dance, theatre and film. He moved to Santa Fe in October, 2008. He writes for "Pasatiempo," the Arts magazine of the "Santa Fe New Mexican."