7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Sept. 5-6 | Orange Studio, 1121 N. Mills Ave. | facebook.com/vocidance | $15
The audience for this weekend’s show at the Orange Studio can expect an active night – no passive viewing here. Genevieve Bernard, Voci Dance artistic director, wants people to know that the company and its collaborators plan to use every corner of the space – even the walls and the ceiling. “It’s an immersive experience – you don’t officially have a chair, so you move in and around it.”
Whisper/Roar brings together a kaleidscope of art forms: dance, film, music, sculpture, costume design. Voci’s dancers will move around the spacious Orange Studio to the accompaniment of original music by DJ Nigel John, in costumes constructed by Tamara Marke, under a sculpture installation by Mario Schambon. “So it’s multilayered,” says Bernard, in a classic understatement. “We have video, we have dance, we have these gorgeous costumes, and then we have this really cool sculpture, plus Nigel DJ’ing, plus you can get wine!” Or, as Nigel coolly puts it: “Friends getting together making art.”
Voci is known for their site-specific dance pieces – the company has interacted with a fairy ring of Doug Rhodehamel’s paper-bag mushrooms, with Orlando’s oldest oak tree (on the grounds of the Mennello Museum) and, most recently, with Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir’s life-size cast-iron figures at Orlando Museum of Art. These two nights at the Orange Studio will continue that custom, as the dancers interact with Nigel’s music and video and Schambon’s suspended sculpture, an enormous assemblage of wood two-by-fours, CFL bulbs and rice paper.
“That’s what Voci loves to do – we love to do site-specific stuff, react to props,” Bernard says. Unlike dance on a traditional stage, where both the audience and the performers remain in their respective fixed positions, Voci’s warehouse shows use the whole space, leaving nowhere for the dancers to rest between pieces but also giving the audience a chance to see the dance from all angles. With so many different elements to take in, audience members can create their own experiences merely by shifting position. “You kind of have to choreograph all the way to the edges – the dancers have to always be on. I love it. I almost can’t imagine not working that way now,” Bernard says.
It’s not clear whether the title Whisper/Roar is an overt reference to the name of the dance company, which means “voices” in Italian. What is clear is that many voices come together for every Voci peformance, but this one more than most. And those voices aren’t blended into one bland tune – rather, each element harmonizes with the next while remaining distinct.
In the same circular way a seed grows into a plant, which in turn provides seeds for another plant, Voci and its collaborators seem to grow one show out of another, with older projects being expanded into new work and those projects then providing seeds for the next. The impetus for Whisper/Roar came from Nigel, who wanted to reuse the music he’d composed for Deep Blue, Doug Rhodehamel’s 2009 “underwater” installation at Bold Hype. He decided he wanted to make a video to accompany the composition and asked some Voci members to dance in the video. “I kind of wanted it to be dark, but pretty,” Nigel says. Bernard corrects him with a laugh: “‘Beautifully creepy’ were the words you used.”
So now the five dance pieces of Whisper/Roar have grown out of movement ideas raised in the video, and the video and music will background them. And then there’s Schambon’s work.
“We’ve known each other forever,” says Nigel. “I knew he’d be perfect. His stuff is very raw, very urban, very dirty; I thought it would fit with the vibe.”
Bernard is sure that more collaboration with Schambon lies down the road, and this is just a rehearsal for a future dance-meets-sculpture interaction. Referring to Schambon’s let’s-do-it work ethic (the sculptor swung down from his Brooklyn home to build this piece before heading off to Tel Aviv for more work), as well as to the massive presence of the installation, Bernard says, “He definitely speaks to the ‘Roar’ part of it.” After he finished constructing it, she says, “We built a few [dance] pieces under the sculpture.
“We wanted to hang off it,” she admits, “but it’s not sturdy enough.”
To which Nigel responds: “Next time.”