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REVIEW: Ormao creates revolutionary melding of disciplines at FAC
Who: Ormao Dance Company
When: 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Tickets: $25, $15 students and children; 634-5583, ormaodance.org, csfineartscenter.org. Limited tickets available.
Next Ormao performance: Spring Concert on April 12-14
Something else: "Floyd D. Tunson: Son of Pop" is on exhibit in the Fine Arts Center during regular gallery hours through Jan. 20.
Museums are static places. We’re supposed to look and not touch, be respectful of the space of others and proceed in an orderly fashion from artwork to artwork. For those who took in the opening evening of Ormao Dance Company’s Fall production, “Bound Breath,” that's all over now.
The second floor of the Fine Arts Center was overloaded with potential energy (the artworks on display were lifeless and awaiting animation). Ormao provided the kinetic energy (an abundance of movement and living expression that brought the galleries to life). The recorded and live original music — courtesy of Glen Whitehead and his trio — added a fabric that joined these seemingly disparate disciplines and melded them into one voice.
The setting was “Floyd D. Tunson: Son of Pop,” the Colorado Springs-based artist’s 40-year retrospective, which parlays painting, sculpture, mixed media and installation pieces into a challenge to artistic, social and political sensibilities. The exhibit is emotionally powerful and cutting-edge contemporary. But rather than adhering to the explicit themes or subjects of Tunson’s creations, the choreographer got only a brief glimpse of the work. Instead, the dance and music of the evening worked to match the emotion and abstraction of Tunson's vision. This resulted in an engaging, potent artistic collaboration -- one without precedence in the region.
As the audience stood in the lobby of the Fine Arts Center, the grand hallway leading to the Taylor Museum gradually and eerily came to life. Whitehead’s minimalist electronic music awakened three dancers in the distance and they ever-so-slowly proceeded toward us in unison. This was the prelude to Patrizia Herminjard’s “Trace,” which was danced under Tunson's sprawling installation “Haitian Dream Boats.” As the dancers took their place on pedestals, trumpeter Whitehead, bass player Lee Gardner and percussionist Randy Bowen joined the ambient electronic music with spontaneous acoustic sounds.
Herminjard’s dancers set the tone for the drama of the evening. They projected anguish through their sometimes sweeping and sometimes angular movements. Although close by, they refused to make any kind of contact with us as we watched from the lobby. They seemed hardly huma, willingly giving up their individuality to adhere to Herminjard’s vision.
Our group of 50 were then ushered past the dancers, down the hall and then up the stairs to the entry way to "Son of Pop." There, five dancers struggled in the airlock between two sets of glass doors and Stephanie Kobe’s “Bound Breath” took hold. This was a horror-filled dance: They moaned in anguish, fought to escape and finally resigned themselves to their fate. When the doors were finally opened to the exhibit, it was as if we were escaping as well.
The next two works co-existed with Tunson's creation and Whitehead's trio. Ormao artistic director Jan Johnson authored “Sentience,” a kind of concerto for a solo dancer against a chorus of three. As they danced in front of the larger-than-life black-and-white cutouts of African-American cowboys in “Pop-up Rodeo,” an odd incongruity emerged. What were these iconic wranglers thinking about the white women in evening gowns inhabiting their time-suspended corral?
In fact, the Ormao choreographers knew little about Tunson's work when they planned their performance. Any ironic contrasts or complimentary expression occurred more by luck than by design.
Ila Conoley’s four-part “unrecognized beauty,” which was the longest work in the performance, took it and the audience through the three remaining galleries. Whitehead’s trio reached a shattering musical climax as the former head of the Pikes Peak Community College dance department moved her five dancers through the galleries, creating the most effective job of matching the temperament of Tunson’s art. The movements became bluesy, funky and sexual. For the first time in the performance, there was a programmatic relationship between art and dance.
The ushers then split us into two parts and led us downstairs to the permanent collection. We watched each other from opposite ends as of a long corridor as Emily Ford’s “Interstices” concluded the performance. At each end, a dancer aped the movements of the other. In between, another pair did the same, but with physical contact. Finally, the dancers made eye contact with the audience, metaphorically unmasking themselves to us. Instead of angst, "Interstices" expressed the pure joy of movement.
This was a fascinating artistic experiment. And perhaps next time, a more substantial relationship between the artist, choreographers and musicians, will take this revolutionary idea even farther. It could be a real world changer.