(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)
Entering the darkness of the Long Center’s Rollins Studio Theater over the weekend was like going back to the womb. An embryonic display greeted the eye: Four silks, lit in glowing red, hung from above, each containing a folded body. On the ground were three more bodies, lying perfectly still beneath shimmering mesh. Then, they began to move, unfurling themselves from their cocoons, coming alive.
So began “Swings Asunder,” a production performed by Austin-based aerial dance troupe Sky Candy and written, directed and choreographed by Nathan Brumbaugh. Set to Austin composer Justin Sherburn’s atmospheric music, the seven-dancer performance swept from the embryo to birth to adulthood, with aerial dance the cornerstone of the movement. The audience seating, configured around three sides of the stage, lent an intimate quality to a special evening.
Projected on a screen were words, along with their definitions, that marked the phases of the dancers’ development — words like “nascent” (“just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential”), “ipseity” (“selfhood; individual identity”), “sorority” (“club of women”) and “fraternity” (“club of men”).
In their nascent phase, the dancers wore nude underwear and flesh-toned netted fabric over their faces, their individuality masked. As they clambered up and down the vertical silks and slowly writhed to a standing position on the floor, their fascinatingly toned musculature was on full display. As they developed towards ipseity, they began to tear away their facial coverings, bringing their individual features into focus.
“Swings Asunder” demonstrated the range of the performers as they told a story of personal growth through floor acrobatics, hand balancing, pole dancing and twirling on rings — techniques as varied as the individuals performing them: Cory Allen, Hailley Lauren, Taryn Lavery, Amy Myers, Leila Noone, Caroline Poe and Jamie Roberts.
As they grow up, a story unfolds of a boy and girl. Groom’s and bride’s outfits descend from the ceiling, and they wed, though the bride is reticent. A child, attached to the bride’s white petticoats by an umbilical cord, emerges; we understand.
The child grows up, a girl who prefers wifebeaters, jeans and suspenders to dresses. The mother and father each play their roles: mother in high heels and an A-line dress, father in a suit jacket. There’s tension between who the parents want their child to be and who their child is. “Is that a boy or a girl?” outsiders ask.
In a moment of reconciliation, mother, father and daughter clamber up on a bedframe as it is hoisted into the air, embracing each other. It’s this last phase that’s the sweetest: Acceptance.
For tickets and more information: http://thelongcenter.org/event/swings-asunder/