605 Collective, American Dance Festival, Durham, NC

Written by:
Alyssa Schoeneman
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Performed by 605 Collective
Music samples from Daedelus, Tehn (Brian Crabtree), Portable Sunsets, aMute, Poirier and Mulatu Astatke
At the American Dance Festival
Reynolds Industries Theatre, Durham, NC
June 16, 2013

In Vancouver, British Columbia, circa 2006, three artists with a shared artistic vision formed the 605 Collective. Since then, these artists – Lisa Gelley, Shay Kuebler and Josh Martin – have collaborated with their dancers on all produced works without any one person acting as the artistic director of the group.

This year’s ADF crowd was introduced to the 605 Collective through the performance of the group’s first evening-length work, “Audible.” This performance featured dancers Scott Augustine and Maiko Miyauchi in addition to the Collective’s three co-founders, in an effort to translate the increasingly invasive, ever-expanding digital world into a physical form.

Born in 2009, “Audible” addressed issues that, even then, would have been about three years past their prime relevancy. Though the ideas explored in this piece have been hashed and re-hashed in nearly every intellectual community since Facebook and Twitter exploded between 2005 and 2006, the 605 Collective addressed them in a unique way. With the creation of “Audible,” this group melded highly physical movement vocabularies and explored complex choreographic structures in a way that felt fresh.

At the very top of the piece, dancers established a “watching” dynamic; the five performers looked at one another without really seeing one another in a walking pattern with occasional stillness. Humorous choreographic episodes later in the work sustained and deepened this voyeuristic trend.

In an exploration of the way that individuals accrue “followers” on social media sites, Martin performed a solo while gradually accumulating mimics just out of his range of vision. When he turned around to see what was happening behind him, the other dancers quickly adjusted their actions to stretching, looking elsewhere and even polishing the floor. The laughs continued when Martin’s flock suddenly overtook him in his choreographic phrase; it was then Martin who was struggling to keep up. This change of events spoke to how easily control and ownership of original content can get out-of-hand on the web.

Later, a back-to-back duet performed by Martin and Gelley physicalized the world of online dating and relationship-building. After approaching one another facing backwards, the pair moved like water through moments of dragging and lifting, and during a back-to-back waltz. The dancers had a natural chemistry when facing away from one another, but could not make sense of their connected bodies when they turned around. These moments served as a metaphor for the way that relationships can advance quickly online, but that chemistry can fade when meeting someone for the first time. It is notable that despite their staged incompatibility, the pair had the most believable emotional connection of any of the performers onstage.

I mentioned earlier that the 605 Collective draws from each of its members for choreographic inspiration; knowing this, it came as no surprise to viewers that the movement vocabularies showcased in “Audible” were both diverse and numerous. The work’s movement language drew from physical practices including hockey, capoeira, judo, football, Aikido and Gaga, and it was sometimes difficult to decipher where one form ended and another began.

Highly physical choreography throughout the work showcased the dancers’ abilities to move seamlessly in and out of the floor, to jump with abandon, to stabilize their balances during inversions and to physically support and manipulate fellow performers in lifts. In one inspired moment, dancers performed a set of choreography for a second time, this time “rewound” to create gravity-defying illusions and unnatural movement patterns.

These complex choreographic sections gave way to more barbaric, less conversational forms of communication in “Audible”’s later moments, which featured the dancers performing football drills and hockey checks, and grappling with one another while sporting wrestling headgear. Was this a commentary on abrasive social interactions among men, or simply an opportunity to highlight the collective’s brasher repertoire of physical trainings?

I can’t say for sure. What I can say, though, is that this piece is worth a view despite its somewhat tired subject matter. I especially recommend this work to dancers and choreographers who need a break from conventional movement patterns, because I found myself wanting to watch these dancers move long after the show had ended.

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