Friday, August 5, 2016

The Living Earth Show and Post:Ballet Present a World Premiere at Z Space

Last night Z Space presented the world premiere of Do Be, a full-evening theater piece that has been under development for about three years. The composition of this piece was the result of close collaboration involving the Living Earth Show duo of guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson, choreographer Robert Dekkers, and costume and scenic designer Christian Squires. The performance itself brought the Living Earth Show together with Post:Ballet, a company of nine dancers founded by Dekkers, who also serves as Artistic Director.

The creation of Do Be over the course of three years involved the composition of five dances, each using music by a different composer commissioned by the Living Earth Show. “Pasturing” was composed in two parts that served to begin and conclude the entire cycle; and its score was composed by Jacob Cooper. The other dances, in order of appearance, were “Family Sing-A-Long and Game Night” with music by Nicole Lizée, “Tassel” with music by Anna Meredith, “The Bell, The Ball, The Bow-Tie, & The Boot” with music by Jonathan Pfeffer, and “Double Happiness” with music by Christopher Cerrone. These pieces were presented as individual compositions in preview concerts that were held, in part, to raise funds for the complete performance.

Without belaboring the obvious, one should probably begin with the disclaimer that Do Be is not about verb grammar. Nevertheless, Dekkers took a highly imaginative approach to developing the opposing relations between active and passive, as well as transitive and intransitive. In Post:Ballet he has created and trained a highly disciplined ensemble of dancers, and his choreography explores such a diverse variety of means to engage that discipline that, while Do Be runs over two hours (at least it did last night), the attentive viewer never feels that Dekkers is running out of ideas. There are, of course, familiar tropes, more from the formative years of modern dance than from classical ballet; but these simply add rhetorical polish to an intricate sense of highly individual logic that pervades the entire evening.

In that respect the Living Earth Show was the perfect ensemble to match Dekkers’ imagination. One would think that coupling a guitar and a drum set would just be a trip down memory lane to when rock and roll was coming into its own. However, Meyerson’s skills expand far beyond the drum set; and, in previously performances, he has distinguished himself with talents such as the ability to get quarter-tone bends out of a metallophone. Andrews’ sensitivity to pitches beyond the usual equal-tempered chromatic scale is equally keen to the point that he can achieve his microtones by retuning his instrument while playing it. In addition, several of the commissioned compositions required the addition of electronic gear; and one piece had both members of the duo playing harmonica.

That last sentence is a key one. For all of the discipline behind both the choreography and the music of Do Be, the real enjoyment of the piece comes from the outrageousness of its all. That begins with the extraordinary (in the literal sense of the word) ensemble of costumes designed by Squires (for the Living Earth Show as well as the dancers). Squires was capable of evoking everything from the traditions of nineteenth-century classical ballet to an alien invasion. Almost all of of his wild visions were given sober deadpan delivery, although some of the larger episodes of group choreography could not conceal the sheer joy of the energetic moves Dekkers had conceived. On the other hand Andrews’ loopy turn in leading a “family sing-a-long” may have been lost on the younger generation in the audience; but enough of us of the proper age were there to get a real kick out of his choice of a target for satire.

Those who missed out on the fun may be pleased to learn that there will be two more performances of Do Be at Z Space. They will both be at 8 p.m. tonight (Friday, August 5) and tomorrow night (Saturday, August 6). Z Space is located in NEMIZ (the NorthEast Mission Industrial Zone) at 450 Florida Street, between 17th Street and Mariposa Street. Tickets are priced from $30 to $55. OvationTix has an event page with hyperlinks for both of these dates, each to a page with a seating chart that shows where seats are still available.

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