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The Satellite Collective & Manuel Vignoulle’s ‘Rituals’ at BAM Fisher…

May 21, 2014
Satellite Collective’s Lauren Ferguson, Kit McDaniel, Giulia Carotenuto (Ching-I Chang is crouched in front of formation) in Esme Boyce’s ‘Emergence’. Photo: Lora Robertson

Satellite Collective’s Lauren Ferguson, Kit McDaniel, Giulia Carotenuto (Ching-I Chang is crouched in front of formation) in Esme Boyce’s ‘Emergence’. Photo: Lora Robertson

I knew nothing about Satellite Collective except that Manuel Vignoulle was creating a new work with them to be shown May 16-17, 2014 at BAM Fisher. I had seen snippets of rehearsal via video and it looked quite exciting and after the performance I saw…just wow!

Satellite Collective was founded in 2008 and is a collaborative arts incubator focused on creating cutting edge works of interdisciplinary performance. The Collective consists of composers, choreographers, musicians, visual artists, designers, poets and writers from across the country who share a vision of new art forms and collaborations. (What little I had heard of the Collective was its association with the Troy Schumacher and the Satellite Ballet which is now BalletCollective and is separate and pursuing its own unique vision.)

The evening consisted of the premiere of two contemporary dance works: Rituals, choreographed by Manuel Vignoulle and Emergence, choreographed by Esmé Boyce. Both works had original music composed and performed by the Satellite Ensemble under the direction of Nick Jaina, with visual design by Lora Robertson and Kevin Draper. The evening also included a short stop-motion film by Robertson with a score by Ellis Ludwig-Leone;a performance work by Nathan Langston with photography by Casey Kelbaugh; and a solo cello composition by Bill Ryan.

The program began with Simple Lines, a solo composition for cello by Bill Ryan. Now I am not great critic of music nor do I pretend to be… I usually either like it or I don’t. The specifics and mechanics of musical composition is just too much for my dyslexic mind to absorb…I tried band when I was in elementary school…I was going to become a virtuoso of the cornet…I wanted a trumpet but it seems the music store had a sale on cornets…my mother loved a good sale…but I digress…my dyslexia canceled out my dreams of being the world’s greatest virtuoso of the cornet…the notes on my sheet music seem to jump around a lot…I was, as a child, back to the drawing board….but, again I digress…(did I mention my A.D.D., that did not help with band practice either…)

Mr. Ryan played to perfection for my untrained ear. It was an emotionally charged and moving work at first…but towards a third of the way in there was a repetitive melody, it seemed the same three notes, boom, bum, boom… that Mr. Ryan’ score seemed to overlay…it confused me…I soon lost interest…see, A.D.D. wins out again…it was that repetitive boom, bum, boom….

Esme Boyce’s Emergence was a multimedia piece for four women with projections created from time-lapses of life emerging from the ground and air accompanied by original music composed and performed by the Satellite Ensemble under the direction of Nick Jaina. This was without a doubt a beautiful and intriguing work that I hope to witness again.

Satellite Collective’s Lauren Ferguson, Kit McDaniel, Giulia Carotenuto & Ching-I Chang in Esme Boyce’s ‘Emergence’. Photo: Lora Robertson

Satellite Collective’s Lauren Ferguson, Kit McDaniel, Giulia Carotenuto & Ching-I Chang in Esme Boyce’s ‘Emergence’. Photo: Lora Robertson

The music began and four women, Lauren Ferguson, Giulia Carotenuto, Ching-I Chang and Kit McDaniel began to move as if life itself emerging out of primordial ooze.  Brandon Stirling Baker must be mention for his innovative approach to lighting. In the beginning light seem to ride across the bodies…a stream of soft amber luminescence not really noticeable till an occasional a shoulder, a leg or torso would lift up.

The choreography began slowly, almost methodical, a dancer’s leg slowly extended then another dancer’s arm. The dancers did not move in unison or separately but as appendages attached to a singular organism.

The score at one point was both melodic and saccadic, the string quartet playing as drum sticks were struck together to produce a riveting rhythm that somehow stood apart yet merged with the music. At times though, the choreography became cerebral as opposed to innate. Where the work was fascinating as a whole, at times the choreographer/dancers did not seem to fully utilize the intense emotional aspects of the music. As the work progressed it seemed the choreography was going one way while the music was going another, as if the movement was created without being aware of the music and vise-versa. Where the music would be full and lyrical the movement would be angular and sparse. Sometimes this dichotomy of movement and music works and works well…this time it did not…

Satellite Collective’s Mistral Hay, Jennifer Rose, Elena Valls, Isaies Santamaria, (Alexander Anderson and Michael Wright are lined up toward upstage behind Isaies Santamaria) in Manuel Vignoulle’s ‘Rituals’. Photo: Lora Robertson

Satellite Collective’s Mistral Hay, Jennifer Rose, Elena Valls, Isaies Santamaria, (Alexander Anderson and Michael Wright are lined up toward upstage behind Isaies Santamaria) in Manuel Vignoulle’s ‘Rituals’. Photo: Lora Robertson

Yet, it is that final imagery that is still in my mind…the dancers gather together and seem to morph into one, a thing of stillness, a moment when time has stopped. The lighting only bounces across bodily protrusions and curves, then incredible images projected on to the dancers, they are now sculptures of changing color and image, one I remember being very colorful with vivid blues, it was very dramatic ending.

Esme Boyce’s Emergence is not a perfect work, it has some kinks that need to be worked out but it is a young work with immense potential of growth as it matures. When a choreographer premieres a new work, that is not the finished product, but rather a finished draft or version…the work will go through many transformations as elements are added and taken away during its following showings. I would love to see this work a year from now to see how it has grown. Over all, a beautiful job to all involved.

Manuel Vignoulle’s career as a choreographer I have been following closely since I first saw his work Shifting Shadow at the 2013 :pushing progress Showcase Series. I was drawn to Mr. Vignoulle’s emotional and athletic approach to movement. I can only say that Mr. Vignoulle’s Rituals is his strongest work to date…

Rituals is work for six dancers, three women and three men, Alexander Anderson, Mistral Hay, Isaies Santamaria, Jennifer Rose, Elena Valis and Micheal Wright. The women wear heels with short gray silk dresses and the men in suits, white shirts and tie giving the work a pedestrian feel. The movement began slowly, casually, the ordinary explored, habits and mannerism that we take for granted…combing of hair, straightening clothes…

This evolves in a type of social dance of conflict and resolution, couples coming together and then apart. Sensuality runs like an underlying current through the work, nothing overt but you can see it, feel it there. The look a woman gives a man when they come together or the way a man’s hand caresses a woman’s arm when they part as if he is reluctant to let her go.

Imagery created by mathematic formulas is seen behind the dancers, ever shifting, changing mobiles of movement. The dance swings from moments of quick action to frozen moments as if time has stilled.

Satellite Collective’s Michael Wright & Jennifer Rose in Manuel Vignoulle’s ‘Rituals’. Photo: Lora Robertson

Satellite Collective’s Michael Wright & Jennifer Rose in Manuel Vignoulle’s ‘Rituals’. Photo: Lora Robertson

Mr. Vignoulle’s approach to the use of the body in space can be intensely physical; dancers spiral to the floor then regain standing with a backwards hand-spring . At one point the women walk nonchalantly across the stage and the men follow them by movements on the floor that resembles the electric worm from disco days past. With men’s bodies prone on the floor, a ripple begins in the torso, travels to the feet, then the ripple reverses and travels to the head.

Men and women separate and perform a call and response of motion, the men moving in one way and then the women answer that movement with something total their own. The music is alive and with a drumming rhythm that calls to mind an abstract and modern-day interpretation of the tango.

The work is filled with passion, suspense and sexuality. A man pulls his shirt over a woman’s head and they begin to move as one. Blinded by desire, blind to hope, blind to where the relationship will go. The duet is tender in a strange way, the two dancers with faces hidden are anonymous to us the audience and perhaps even to themselves as to the reality of who the other is.

The original music composed and performed by the Satellite Ensemble under the direction of Nick Jaina was brilliant for both pieces. The Satellite Collective was a new but very enjoyable experience with their commitment to innovative and collaborative art of varying forms.

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