Scott/Powell | Mapping out geography Nov 16, 2007

by Andy

Scott/Powell Performance’s new work, Geography, is about our global landscape. It is about the human erosion to the global ecology. It is about humanity limiting itself, crowding itself, damaging itself. It is about the perilous obstacles that lie just beyond the fragile confines of the body. It is about drowning Polar Bears. I know this because I was told this on OtB’s website. And, while I appreciate knowing the source subject for this engaging and exhausting effort, it isn’t immediately evident in the viewing, although that doesn't detract from it's strength. The piece expresses and embodies a pervasive sense of dread and guilt. Hopelessness and claustrophobia. And while there is always delight in observing the beautiful motion of beautiful bodies, Geography is not the place to go for respite from the panic and crushing weight of modern life. It is, however, the place to go for a staggering display of adept and honest physicality by seven great dancers. For approximately one hour, the performers exhibit tremendous endurance and impressive technical chops in a series of episodes that evolve thematically, but never back off from the demanding pace established at the outset. This lack of dynamic is also evident in the very sparse musical composition and visual design. The design effect is haunting and slight, placing all the drama between the bodies themselves. Their struggle against each-other leaves the audience breathing heavy as well. There is quite a bit crammed in there, and it might be worth another viewing to parse it all out. The episodes evolve in all their elements from one to the next, punctuated by a series of solos. Several moments stand out. It begins with the organic undifferentiated flutterings and collisions of a green-clad ensemble playing within the limits of lines of light upon floor. It is the only hint of whimsy in the piece. At another point, a sense of co-operation emerges in synchronized gestures of some familiarity that pop out from the flurry. Later still, individual dancers try to break out in the same explosive motions of the preceding pieces, only to be pulled back towards muted stillness by the rest of the group. The limiting embraces seem loving, yet desperate. Sweet, yet menacing. Another episode involves harnesses which allow the ensemble to push, twist, pull, and lift one another. The effect is stunning and unnerving, with a sense of fetishism. A simple device becomes the guiding principle of motion and the dancers themselves do little more than hold a position as they are dangled out into space. The final moments offer some respite from the wrenching push-and-pull, with slight and simple swaying movements. A piano delivers the first clear musical notes. A voice delivers a list of simple items from the natural landscape. The tension fades into the dark. Geography is a serious work by serious people. It expresses cynicism without irony. It is raw and bare and difficult and beautiful. It is my first experience with Scott/Powell Performance and I’m happy to make the acquaintance. Andy Fife