Striking aerial dance at a site lacking the drama of other Blue Lapis Light shows

Arts Review


City Terrace, Long Center, 701 W. Riverside

Sept. 30

Just before Blue Lapis Light's One began, it was difficult for me to relax. In a site with no wings, no evident "offstage," I felt uneasy not knowing where the dancers would enter from. Nor did I know how they would enter – on harnesses, on silks,

on foot? My eyes continually scanned the area back and forth, up and down, lest I miss something. When dancers appeared atop the ring of the Long Center City Terrace, I wasn't sure how they got there. The illusion of appearance and disappearance, aided by Jason Amato's lighting, was one of the best uses of the round, outdoor space. After the first section, the dancers atop the narrow, second-story ring slowly walked backward, receding from view. On the ground, dancers scampered off the pavilion and down the grassy hill beyond it until they were no longer discernible in the dark; other times, they emerged from below the hillside, my eyes slowly adjusting and catching on as they walked toward the center of the pavilion.

Artistic Director Sally Jacques' aerial dancers are some of the best local dancers – aerial or grounded – I've seen. They stretched their bodies fully out into space, attending to line at all times. This specificity and control is a necessity when up on the apparatus, I expect, but it also seems to be an artistic concern of Jacques'. This refinement is refreshing and is what elevates her work beyond circus and makes some repetitive movements, like the somersault, mesmerizing instead of tedious. When four women on harnesses somersaulted around the columns, midway between the top of the structure and the ground, their landings and soarings were as fluid as if they were underwater. A later section for a pair of male­-female couples suspended in silks was sculpturally lovely, and, if I'm not mistaken, its mood peeked out, a bit cheekily, from beneath the sober intensity of the rest of the show.

This intensity – the upturned faces, the open palms, the clenched-fist-to-stomach maneuvers, all to a dramatic compilation of music from film, opera, and compositions by sound designer William Meadows – was explained in a program note, which referred to anxiety, unpredictable times, and seeing oneself as "part of the divine creative intelligence." But even seen as episodes of meditation and quest, the structure of the piece seemed fragile. The groupings and apparatus-focused sections seemed arranged only superficially: There was a beginning, some divertissement, a slight heightening of energy, and an abrupt ending, but this construction didn't appear to support a larger concept.

Perhaps the venue was partly to blame for the feebleness in the work. Except for the disappearing quality it afforded the entrances and exits, the City Terrace seemed limiting and lacking in drama compared to previous sites, such as the J.J. Pickle Federal Building and the Intel shell. Perhaps this has to do with psychology: Performance is expected at the Long Center (even though it's usually inside), and so the context isn't as arresting as with performances at federal office buildings or abandoned construction sites, both rife with symbolism. Also, the space on the ground begged to be used more. Whenever the dancers descended, they did a lot of lunges and nice port de bras, breaking into a run near the end. Granted, there isn't a lot of exciting dance that can be done on concrete, unless the dancers have sneakers and maybe kneepads, but I trust that the team who figured out how to have a woman gracefully sit atop a man's upended bottom while he is suspended in a two-story length of cloth can come up with something to do on the ground as well.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
Arts Review
Fusebox Festival 2012
This year the fest's dance works provoked questions about inequity, grrrl power, fame, and change

Jonelle Seitz, May 11, 2012

Arts Review
April Fools
Acia Gray mines vaudeville for lost treasures of tap and makes them dazzle again

Robert Faires, April 6, 2012

More by Jonelle Seitz
Blue Lapis Light's <i>Belonging, Part One</i>
Blue Lapis Light's Belonging, Part One
The work's dancers, whether on the ground or sailing through the air, were beacons of human hope and empathy

Sept. 28, 2018

Aztlan Dance Company's <i>The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried</i>
Aztlan Dance Company's The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried
In the troupe's latest choreodramas, dancing desperados persisted and partied

Aug. 31, 2018


One, Blue Lapis Light, Sally Jacques, Teresa Hardy, Jason Amato, William Meadows

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle