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October 31st, 2007 HEATHER WISNER | Performance
 

Linda Austin/Performance Works NorthWest

Invitation to an urban circus

     
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LINDA AUSTIN

How often have you seen, from the window of a moving bus, some silent interaction between people that begged for a back story? The Linda Austin/Performance Works NorthWest show Circus Me Around works from the premise that cityscapes offer fleeting glimpses of people’s interior lives, if not a context for them.

Architects Ean Eldred, Richard Garfield, John Kashiwabara and Peter Nylen have created a segmented warehouse setting with open doorways leading from one room to the next, and a scaffolding bound in pink plastic wrap, from which the shadows of dancers Margretta Hansen and Noelle Stiles periodically emerged above the rest of the action, in the same way that the top floor of a darkened apartment building sometimes affords brief flashes of activity. When viewers enter, they are given color-coded tickets indicating in which of the space’s three rooms they will begin. There are three dances happening simultaneously in each room, and when the performers finish in one room, they direct viewers to the next like traffic cops, integrating us into the moving landscape. Composer Seth Nehil’s ambient score effectively evokes city streets with the sounds of whooshing cars and rain splashing against pavement.

The movement, as in real life, is generally pedestrian and sometimes gestural. In one room, a quartet of women in costumer David Rafn’s outfit of gray top, leggings and gold lamé short-shorts tries on various pairs of shoes and clumps upstage; in another, there is a staggered collapse of bodies that slowly rolls to one side. And Austin partially disrobes and makes a mad circular dash—pants around her ankles—before ducking behind a roll of scrolls and singing “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” in a quavery whisper. If we haven’t seen exactly this in real life, we’ve seen something like it that makes us equally unsure whether to laugh, comment or turn away. Movement visible in one room from the doorway of another sometimes causes our attention to drift; by the end of the show, like the end of a day, we’re left with a string of images that lingers and then eventually dissolves.


SEE IT: 640 SE Stark St., 777-1907. 8 pm Thursday-Saturday Nov. 1-3, $12-25 sliding scale ($10 on Nov. 1).
 
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