The Blue Pearl: A Heart-rending, Joyous Affirmation of Life

Local Arts Reviews


The Blue Pearl: A Heart-rending, Joyous Affirmation of Life

Festival Beach at Town Lake,

June 16

Running Time: 1 hr, 30 min

I recently heard that it is a miracle that any film makes it through the arduous process from idea to release. I believe the same can be said for dance, but to the tenth power. It is so much easier to not dance. It requires constant training on top of a full-time job. The creation of choreography, rehearsal time, and special technical requirements such as flooring and side lighting and the task of creating work makes the process much more difficult and complicated because it involves so many other people besides the performers. With scaffolding, tricky lighting, inclement weather, and city zoning requirements in the mix, you have the recipe for a meltdown. Why do it then?

For an hour and a half, Sally Jacques and her dancers showed us why: Because there is so much aching beauty to express that words cannot touch and because dance transforms. In the profoundly beautiful world Jacques created for Blue Pearl, the third installment of her scaffold trilogy, nothing else mattered except shared epiphany. Performed outdoors on Festival Beach at Town Lake, the piece combined a natural setting with the best elements of the wall, rope, and scaffolding work Jacques has been exploring for the past few years, plus a new addition to the prop vocabulary: pole work, in which eight dancers leaned and vaulted on 10-foot white poles in unison like slow motion martial artists.

The night was perfect: full moon, breeze fluttering the pale gray silk costumes as dancers twined around the rigid metal structure. The perfectly matched music choices, engineered by William Meadows, ranged from natural wind sound collages to Indian compositions and classical arias. Jason Amato's cool-blue and light-red lighting threw angular shadows on the dancers' faces as they hung over the instruments and loomed gargoyle-like from atop the scaffolding. Seamless transitions integrated the prop work so that the piece flowed like a well-planned religious ceremony, which was the heart of the work. It was an extended collaborative offering of movement, sound, and light.

Particularly moving and slightly dangerous was the duet performed over four prone bodies. One level above the ground in an empty space between the scaffold sections, two dancers pulled their bodies taut like a bow and arrow and stepped down into thin air only to rebound and contract back into the safety of the structure. They continued reaching for each other and never quite touching -- all while suspended over the bodies of four trusting dancers. Later in the piece, it was satisfying to see other dancers echo this movement, testing the boundaries of safety and the confines of the structure. Unlike other aerial-style work, there were no ropes and no nets. One false move and ...

Jacques' work is at once serene and painful. It is beauty and risk at the same time and cannot be re-created in a theatre. Inside, it would be a cool set with acrobats, but outside, it is a representation of the state of humankind, subject to the whims of nature, circumstance and fate. Every time I go to one of her concerts, I learn something about myself. This time I realized why I continue to live the double life of artist/person, why I continue the struggle to dance. It is a heart-rending and joyous affirmation that I am indeed still alive.

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Blue Pearl, Sally Jacques, William Meadows, Jason Amato

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