an Evening of Ice Bergs

Courtesy of Pieter

Courtesy of Pieter

In January, Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency in California and the exhibition Facing the Sublime in Water, CA at the Armory Center for the Arts closed. The following month Silver Lake residents debated the fate of Ivanhoe Reservoir amid DWP plans to phase out open-air reservoirs, while figure skating and short track speed skating events were underway at Iceberg Skating Palace for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The icebergs are thawing.

Simone Forti has been “working with news” since the mid-1980s, so it felt natural that these and other concurrent local, national and global newsworthy events came to mind while watching her and Rae Shao-Lan’s dance performance, an Evening of Ice Bergs, at Pieter on February 24, 2014. (Tashi Wada performed the well-accompanied score.)

I watched the performance in various states of enjoyment, even giggling at times—a response that typically makes its way into my experience of Forti’s work. Yet, when I sat down to address my notes, something about my experience troubled me. This performance was billed as a collaboration; however, unfamiliar with Shao-Lan’s practice, I was positioned to read an Evening of Ice Bergs through my exposure to and knowledge of Forti’s practice (as illustrated by my introduction and image captions, which came from my notes). Collaborative practices take many forms but function as models of shared authorship, so I knew Shao-Lan’s voice wasn’t missing. I just didn’t know what it looked like.

It was apparent during that evening of Ice Bergs that Forti and Shao-Lan had worked together before; their transitions were seamless and they shared a corporeal understanding of each other indicative of developing work together for years. According to Shao-Lan’s blog, Ice Bergs is an ongoing exploration between the two practitioners.

Ice Bergs is an improvisation practice I have been tending to with Simone Forti for a couple of years now. It is somehow magical what unfolds in the discipline of our practice, which asks us to listen to each other, the space, the subtleties of every moment and sense everything to the point that sensing itself decides the action. The name ‘Ice Bergs’ followed after a couple years of cultivating this practice in the discovery of what we were already doing/experiencing.

In 2008, Forti and Shao-Lan established a formal mentor/mentee relationship vis-à-vis a CHIME grant (a mentorship program for choreographers). According to the 2009 CHIME in Southern California Pilot Program Final Report, the pair developed “icebergs”[sic] during this time. However, the two had an established personal and professional relationship prior to the grant, according to this article written by Susan Josephs. She states that Shao-Lan had been “developing a collaborative work examining the human relationship to nature and natural resources,” revealing some common interests between the two dancer/choreographers. Shao-Lan’s “voice” was further accentuated through this quote:

I’m much more interested in social change than making beautiful art that gets critically acclaimed…There’s an activist element in my work but I’m also interested in how movement affects the senses and channels sensation.

The flurry of questions about legacy, mentorship, and the nature of collaboration and reception quelled for a moment once these connections were made. Below are my short edited notes with and without pics:

The Pieter announcement states that Rae Shao-Lan and Simone Forti will “revisit a practice of investigating illusions of velocity”.

Tashi Wada’s sonic score resemble the sounds generated by wind turbines in the desert.

Shao-Lan twirls a tumbleweed from its stem. Desert. Desolate. Dry. Windy.

Shao-Lan twirls a tumbleweed from its stem.
Desert. Desolate. Dry. Windy.

And spins around the stems' axis.

And spins around the stems’ axis.

Forti carries a plastic laundry basket and holds it to the sky while standing and posed on her back, as if to capture rain.  The basket has holes.  Futile effort.

Forti carries a plastic laundry basket and holds it to the sky
while standing and posed on her back, as if to capture rain.
The basket has holes. Futile effort.

 

Forti with basket and Shao-Lan with tumbleweed.

Forti with basket and Shao-Lan with tumbleweed.

Forti carries out five water jugs. 4 empty and 1 full. Capacity of each jug is 2.5 gallons.

“That one is full of water,” she says drawing the jug with water from still life on an oversized easel pad. (video still)

“That one is full of water,” she says drawing the jug with water
from still life on an oversized easel pad. (video still)

Forti lugs empty jugs as if they were full, her balance seemingly set off by the weight of the water swishing from the swing of her step and arms.  (video still)

Forti lugs empty jugs as if they were full, her balance
seemingly set off by the weight of the water swishing from
the swing of her step and arms. (video still)

Forti attempts to pour water from the jug in the drawing into an empty container in front of her.

Forti attempts to pour water from the jug in the drawing
into an empty container in front of her.

Tashi Wada’s musical tones cycle faster, like a turbine picking up power from forceful gusts of winds in the desert. Kinetic energy converted into electricity. Renewable energy.

Shao-Lan is “spun-up” from an untethered force generated by Forti (like an object lifted from the ground by a tornado).  The action is reminiscent of a pair spin in pair skating, without touching.

Shao-Lan is “spun-up” from an untethered force generated by Forti (like an object lifted from the ground by a tornado). The action is reminiscent of a pair spin in pair skating, without touching.

An iceberg.

An iceberg.

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2 Responses to “an Evening of Ice Bergs

  1. Thank you Carol, for thoughtful ideas about this piece…

    Missed Pieter, but caught Simone at the ALOUD/LAPD with Vicki Marks and Wendy Perron (June 2014)… in another dance work…such grace and elegance in her listening…concentrated, improvised movement and news stories…also about water….a little buddha, she is…xo

  2. Hi Jerri, this is actually Chloe Flores’ writing. Hard to tell with the way this site is formatted unfortunately. She is doing a yearlong guest blogging residency that focuses on dance and the visual arts.

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