January 3, 2013

Off Beat: Deep-six the deep freeze with 'THAW' and more

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

For some people, the very crux of good art is that it be something very difficult to describe.

click image to enlarge

“Murmurations,” a choir of 13 women, will be one of the “performative works” in “THAW,” which is part of a First Friday Art Walk event at Space Gallery.

Photo by Kelly Nesbitt


WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland


INFO: space538.org

Using that logic, the event scheduled for Space Gallery during Portland's First Friday Art Walk this week should be some very good art.

The free event includes a series of performances which, according to Space's website, "will be alive with juxtapositions of movement, voice, and image."

One part of the two-hour event is titled "THAW," and includes three "performative works" that combine music, dance and theater being put on in Space's main space.

One of those works will focus on a choir called "Murmurations." featuring 13 women who are all musicians or singers, singing and performing choreographed moves.

But it's not as easy to sum up "singing and dancing" as if it were part of a Hollywood musical, says Kelly Nesbitt, the theatrical director of the piece and a Portland-based performance artist.

"The movement is very character-based, following a general of 'Love and Fury,' " said Nesbitt, who teamed with Elizabeth Armentino-Burd, the musical director of the piece. "A lot of it is based on minimalism, and about subtleties."

Another of the pieces in "THAW" will also feature dance movement and music -- but again, it's not anything like watching "Oklahoma!" or "The Sound of Music."

That piece is called "What Sex? What Business? What Marriage?", and features six performers -- in three paired groupings -- doing a performance of movement to music that tells a little story.

"I guess you can call it a dance, but it's very much about the relationship of the actors. We use some props, like a rope, but there's no dialogue," said Tess Van Horn of the Portland-based Lorem Ipsum theater company, who is presenting the piece. "I want people who see it to come up with their own ideas of what it might be about."

The third piece of "THAW" is called "(compression)," and was created by dancer Marieke Van Der Steenhoven, who works at Bowdoin College. For this piece, people will be able to walk around Space and look at art on the walls while performers move all around them, exploring themes of pressure.

"I came up with this theme of pressure, as in gravity, or kinetic energy, or social pressure such as anxiety," said Van Der Steenhoven. "The (performers) will not be on a stage; they'll be on the floor. So people get a different view of the performance. As they walk through the gallery, they'll see the movement happening."

While "THAW" takes place in the main space at Space, a smaller room will house New York-based artist Alex Nathanson and composer Dylan Neely presenting a program of live video and electric violin, as well as a solo dance/video hybrid performance called "Shadow Game."

So maybe once you see all of these performances, you can describe them in some easy-to-understand language.

Or then again, maybe it's better to let the art speak for itself.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:



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