Le Vu Long: Together Higher/Stories of Us <font size=2>by Tikka Sears</font> Mar 9, 2007

by Tania Kupczak

The slow flicker of the bare light bulb, a firefly lost in a night breeze, the buzz of the music, slowly lights and music synchronize. Were these symbols? Signals? A language I did not understand? My impatient mind, a million miles a minute, was asking isn’t something going to happen, why isn’t something happening? At first I was upset by the domination of the sound elements. I thought why emphasize the music for a company of deaf dancers if they themselves cannot experience it? If the music only plays for the audience and not for the performer I am somehow less interested. I want to be in the same space, the same rhythm, the same movement, as the dancers and I want them to guide me through this labyrinth, not the bumping audio. Finally, when the small work light went up on the DJ and musician I was relieved, then amazed. I had been so busy waiting for something to happen, I had missed the musician. I thought he was a technician and didn’t realize for way too long that he was also playing and mixing live music. When his light came up my eyes were hungry to focus and a second later the first dancer in hood and sunglasses stepped out. A choreographer perfectly controlling the gaze of the audience and, in this case, since set and lighting design were also by Le Vu Long, all elements painted to perfection. Hooded dancer in sunglasses, straight body walks onto the stage, walks and removes all those black pillars. For me, these first few seconds were steeped in images of war, bombs, landmines, disease and the shards of the tumultuous past of Vietnam where the only constant for so many years was war, with China, with France, with the U.S. The shapes created were beautiful yet I was slightly disappointed that the black statues disappeared so quickly without much interaction with dancers or musician. As the piece went on the set kept revealing itself with each light change. It wasn’t until midway through the piece that we saw the texture of the cloth architecture suspended in the space. I loved the use of the white floor as a drawing palette. Although I thought we were expecting a set with neon lights and boxes, I enjoyed the draping of the large space and what emerged was a more intimate space that held nooks and crannies for dancers to slip in and out of, framing and breaking the frame. Strobe effect upon dancers’ locked eyes and locked lips was nice, and overall I liked how all the dancers seemed so tied into one another, movable, malleable, generous witnesses to each others’ vulnerable moments. Solo by the woman in black was beautiful, her movement style recognizable yet unique. Curling in on itself. At once slippery, precise, effortless. Her black costume a reminder of Vietnam’s past yet her energy so filled with the beat of the present. Particularly striking lighting occurred when the light shards on the floor faded into a color wash. Beautiful and elegant transformation of the space. Young lanky dancer in blue was interesting to watch, spry and unexpected timings were fun. Dancer in black seemed to be a walking infliction, haunting and passing by the intimate duet of the two men she left one in spastic fits. Also liked when three dancers pressed up against each other became a giant eye judging, watching a singular dancer then one would swap out and become part of the group again. We will bear witness to your silent struggle. Ending marching was a fine transition back to the realities of contemporary surveillance in Vietnam, man in green bounces out of step with society and no one seems to notice yet the machine lurches on without him. Partnering was skillful and yet somehow lonely at the same time, suggesting the moment of connection, the strobe of recognition, deeper seeing. Fireflies once again were released into the night as the dancers lit the space. Looking back now, perhaps those black statues were all these antiquated memories of the past and they were being cleared away to make room for the present moment, light, filled with possibilities. But then why did they return at the end? Are they always present?