Carved in interplay Jan 18, 2013

by Ariel

One of the things that draws me to Catherine Cabeen's work is its devotion to questions of identity. Perhaps that's because I first saw Catherine's work in 2010, the start of a time of major transitions in my own life that created a surge in my own willingness and desire to address questions of my identity and my core self. Like her lighting, sound design and signature choreographic elements, I consider this a strength that it's been a pleasure to witness the evolution of over the last few years.

The first half of Fire! felt very much like an exploration of changing identity to me. In particular, I was fascinated by the interplay of Cabeen and several other dancers with bright blue strings. They caged Cabeen in, she wiggled free and broke down the structure, they re-knitted it and created a new cage. To me, the way this was represented visually was an exploration of the idea that there is no creation or construction of new identity without first the destruction or deconstruction of what came before. No evolution without accompanying loss. No phoenix without burning and ashes. This isn't an unusual thing to explore in contemporary live arts, but I've typically seen much more guttural, visceral explorations of that concept in dance, that translate far more literally into the movement. Catherine's take on this is much more cerebral, much more intellectual, and much more abstract.

Lately I've been tuned into the concepts of introversion and extroversion, and thinking about my own (somewhat extreme) extroversion and how that complicates issues of identity for me. I really connected to these blue string interactions onstage, because it felt to me like they reflected my experience of the difficulty in having an identity so carved in interplay, so reliant on the influence and interaction with others, so subject to loss of control and bursts of energy from outside myself. I often feel very left out of identity narratives that communicate a strictly internal struggle. Here, I felt represented. That was a joy, and a surprise. 

I wish I had connected with the second half of the piece as intently as I did the first half. I felt great energy at the start, intrigued by the living mylar body sculpture and the spoken word. That broke down a little for me in the second half, though I enjoyed the choreography throughout. I felt intellectually stimulated by it as opposed to experiencing the physical kinesthetic empathy that I usually do with dance, so that was a rare treat.