Texas Ballet Theater Review: The Poetry of Expression I
March 30, 2021 | Digital
One part Night at the Museum and one part The Twilight Zone… please allow me to explain.
On March 25, 2021 Texas Ballet Theater debuted The Poetry of Expression: Part I, its latest digital release comprised of two ballets choreographed by two of TBT’s company dancers – The Story of You by Carl Coomer and VREC by Riley Moyano. Another TBT company dancer, Amanda Fairweather, teamed up with Coomer and Moyano on the videography and editing of the performance, which was filmed on location in several spots across Dallas and Fort Worth.
Using seven unique dances as its medium, The Story of You takes viewers on a private tour of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
As you enter the museum and travel through its otherwise empty corridors and exhibits from the first person vantage point of the camera, you encounter eleven other seemingly normal visitors as they enjoy all that the museum has to offer, never far from the watchful eyes of a lone museum staffer, played by David Schrenk.
As the museum-goers settle in for their evening of learning and exploration, magical things start happening and they find themselves transformed into fanciful, artistic representations of the museum’s themes and displays.
Coomer uses choreography, costuming, music, and the museum’s space itself to effectively communicate science through ballet. From the intricacies of the human form to the ethereal nature of air and the colorful flight of birds, the sciences are expertly translated into a sensual experience of movement and sound with each dance tailored to its subject.
The dancers’ movement breathes life into the otherwise empty and academic space, and the videographers do well giving us a sense of the interconnectivity of the environment through a first-person perspective that takes us on a seamless journey around the museum with each dance occurring organically as we interact with our fellow guests for the night.
The piece concludes with our staff companion escorting everyone out of the museum as it closes for the night. As Schrenk completes his final walk-through, he sheds his strict persona, comes to life, and takes us on one more joyful dance through all the exhibits that we had seen before. As he locks up and departs for home, he takes a seat to admire the outside of the building and we see a glimpse of the curious, excited child that resides in all of us.
Next up is VREC, a mixed repertoire of six dances that takes us on a virtual reality adventure with Fairweather as our electronic guide and narrator “Dolores”.
We don our headset and travel through a series of virtual worlds with stories told in a “choose your own adventure” format.
With Dolores aiding us as we make our binary selections, each virtual reality experience is communicated through several styles of dance, including ballet, Latin, hip hop, jazz, modern, and musical theater.
Unlike Coomer, who blended choreography into one single trip through a museum, in VREC, Moyano connects the otherwise independent stories, dances, characters, and locations through the common experience and portal of our VR headset.
I say VREC is reminiscent of The Twilight Zone because the VR experience and the worlds to which we are transported are mysterious, isolated, and somewhat dystopian.
Through visual effects and other cues, Moyano reminds us that the dancers’ characters are all merely creations of the imaginations of programmers. The experiences we share with them are only temporal and end as soon as Dolores brings us back to the main menu or, as we see at the conclusion, our headset runs out of power.
Throughout the piece, as was customary with Rod Serling’s iconic thrillers, I was constantly anticipating a plot twist or other surprise to serve as a cautionary tale from our POV journey through these otherwise non-existent spaces.
Standout performances from VREC include Beñat Andueza Molina and Rie Matsuura as the half human/half skeleton couple turning what initially appears to be a normal dinner date at Fort Worth’s Waters Restaurant into the captivating and haunting “Tango de la Muerte” and Nicole Von Enck and Joamanuel Velazquez (who also starred in the “Gems Pas de Deux” in The Story of You) celebrating their love and engagement amongst the whiskey barrels of the Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. in “Mile Stone”.
Although some viewers might see The Poetry of Expression: Part I as a music video and sightseeing tour, I assert that this digital release is yet another example of how companies that have typically been tethered to a theater and the separated experience of viewing dance from the detached plane of the audience can use more immersive digital media to introduce their art to new audiences and provide their artists with new and imaginative modes of storytelling.
The Poetry of Expression: Part I, which will be available for viewing through April 9 is entertaining and does an excellent job of communicating the personalities of Texas Ballet Theater’s choreographers and dancers.
Featured Photo for this Texas Ballet Theater review of Carl Coomer and Amanda Fairweather, courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater
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