Friday, December 9, 2011

"Atlas" - Performed with Quiet Elegance

Review by Judd Hollander

It may look easy, but it’s quite a trick to sing while hanging upside down by your knees while on a trapeze. However making things look easy, as well as graceful, is a common practice in the very enjoyable Atlas, the latest presentation by the all-female performance troupe LAVA, running through December 11th at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side.

Atlas focuses on the concepts of location and guidance and uses different forms of navigation and communicational ideas as jumping off points for making these scenarios come vividly to life. Among the premises explored is the idea of movement through time as shown via a literal forest of bottles (meant to give the suggestion of clocks) which descend from the ceiling as the performers move and glide about them with a seemingly effortless effect.

More family-friendly than some of the group’s other works, and certainly more whimsical, (i.e. two of the performers pedaling on stationary bikes while being manually pushed across the stage), most of the pieces are also imbued with a sense of awe and wonder -- such as with two women singing “Rocket Man” a capella on the aforementioned trapeze, while others moved beneath them on scooters, roller skates and skateboards, their motions meant to indicate the different trajectories of stars in the heavens. There was also a fascinating number which had the performers encased in huge elastic bands, taking on the forms of various drawings; a section that illustrated the possibilities of cloud surfing; and another employing music from a didgeridoo (an indigenous Australian wind instrument).

Also explored are such concepts as “Magnetic North,” the “Compass” and multi-directional movement. For the latter piece, entitled “4 Directions,” the performers used trampolines to lunch themselves into the air and, onto one another. Other acrobatic efforts employed during the production including walking on ones hands, tumbling (often in somewhat slow motion with appropriate mood music), forming a human pyramid, and hanging from a tightrope above the stage.

Perhaps most important was the continual feeling of active motion the different vignettes created, the idea of going somewhere and/or towards something, though exactly what remains open to the interpretation of the audience. It also helped that the LAVA members often looked as they were having a good time during their performances. Good work by director Sarah East Johnson for helping mold the execution of the overall conception into a strong body of work. Kudos also to the performers for the vocals in some of the numbers, such as “The Blues.”

A special treat for those who catch the Saturday matinees is the performance by the LAVA’s junior company, “Magma,” showcasing a group of younger performers (and possibly the LAVA members of tomorrow) and giving them a chance to display their own gymnastic abilities.

Atlas makes for an enjoyable entertainment experience and interesting statement about how we relate to the concepts of movement and direction, and how they relate to us.

Presented by LAVA

Created and performed by Rose Calucchia, Molly Chanoff, Sarah Dey Hirshan, Diana Y Greiner, Sarah East Johnson, Calia Marshall, Lollo Romanski, Allison Schnur

Directed by Sarah East Johnson
Music by DJ Tikka Masala, Mamie Minch
Visual Art by Nancy Brooks Brody, Tony Feher
Costumes by Jocelyn Davis
Lighting Design by Alison May
Production Stage Manager; Catherine Barricklow
Stage Manager: Yolanda Royster

Dixon Place
Chrystie Street

Running time: 80 Minutes

Closes: December 11, 2011

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