Dance review: Arcos Dance’s “Domain”

For most of this year, Arcos Dance has been unfolding parts and pieces of “Domain,” a hugely ambitious  transmedia performance the Austin-based group debuted in San Marcos this weekend as part of a Texas State University symposium on philosophy and dance.

“Domain” is a  joint creation of Eliot Gray Fisher, Erica Gionfriddo and Curtis Uhlemann — the talented and innovative trio that created the achingly beautiful “Warriors: A Love Story,” also a dance-based theatrical piece infused and informed by an intense array of visual media, sound effects and technically complex projections and lighting.

For all its many and intricate components, “Warriors” remained emotionally and theatrically evocative.

Arcos Dance's "Domain." Photo by Chian-Ann Lu.
Arcos Dance’s “Domain.” Photo by Chian-Ann Lu.

Unfortunately “Domain,” however, did not.

If the show’s separate artistic components — the choreography; the lighting effects and new technologies (including 360-degree video); the original music — each offered compelling moments, the sum was a distracting melange stretched two hours long.

“Domain” hung on what was ultimately a limited sci fi-ish narrative: the struggle of a female computer scientist, Jonah, who may or may not be dying, and who may or may not be under cyber-surveillance, and who’s closest confidante is her Siri-voiced artificial intelligence bot.

Jonah’s tale never coalesced to any compelling depth, its moody episodes simply adrift and moody.

Uhlemann and Gionfriddo have a strong movement vocabulary, their choreography filled with vigor, surprise, flashes of whimsy and tenderness. And it was performed suredly and energetically by the excellent troupe of ten dancers.

Often, though, that otherwise interesting dance movement had little connection to the theatrical scenes involving Jonah, her bot and various intermittent characters.

Fisher’s ambitious media design was both potent and graceful at times — a spray illuminated white dots alighting in the dark on just the bodies of a dancer or two, a projected spider-web of delicate hand-drawn illuminated lines that blossom on a thin scrim.

There was a lot going on in “Domain.” Some of it was compelling. But in the end it was a too dissimilar muchness.


Arcos Dance's "Domain." Photo by Chian-Ann Lu.
Arcos Dance’s “Domain.” Photo by Chian-Ann Lu.

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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