The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting

This music/dance/theatre collaboration wove together David Bowie's work with his life and the lives of others

Adam Sultan channels the Thin White Duke while (l-r) Steve Ochoa, Nolan Kennedy, and Alyson Dolan say, “Let’s dance.”
Adam Sultan channels the Thin White Duke while (l-r) Steve Ochoa, Nolan Kennedy, and Alyson Dolan say, “Let’s dance.” (Courtesy of Kirk R. Tuck)

The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting

Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress
Jan. 31

A body of work. We all have one, in those periods, focuses, facets that surface at different times during our lives, but for few of us are these surfacings as crystallized, as deeply etched for the public to make of them what they will, as they are for lifelong pop stars like David Bowie. When Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, in collaboration with the Bowie tribute band the Super Creeps and Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble, dove into Bowie's work and life to-date, the glittering takeaway was how marvelously one person's body of work can inspire a cultural mood that, in iterations beyond the artist's conceit or control, becomes a force in the experiences of others.

Because though actor Nolan Kennedy's tired, strung-out Bowie was no more a complete Bowie than the Super Creeps' frontman, Adam Sultan, each was a representation of a facet of the Bowie epic. (Some fans may have found it a shortcoming, though, that 21st century Bowie was largely missing.) In using soundpainting (the multigenre improvisation technique in which conductors use baseball signal-like gestures to elicit actions by the group) to mix, splice, and warp Bowie's music, narrative bits culled from Bowie's interviews, and dance, AADT Artistic Director Andrea Ariel and her collaborators wove together the texts of individual experiences of Bowie's work, and of Bowie's own work with itself and himself.

As these experiences intermingled, it became clear how Bowie's devotion to invented personae – Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke – is akin to the Super Creeps' devotion to Bowie (the tribute-band genre itself cultivating multiple layers of personae). Though the show's narrative reminded us that Bowie's characters may have been a strategy to appease the mental illness that plagued his family, the show found richness, rather than schizophrenia, in dual experiences and different strata of meaning. At the end of the ballad "Space Oddity," as Major Tom floated off into space, Kennedy riffed on isolation and loneliness while the dancer Alyson Dolan, moving forward in space with a big bent-leg rond de jambe, her body reeling backward, embodied the other facet of the song, the tragic-romantic one in which all of space is the iceberg and Tom's abandoned capsule is the ship.

True, Bowie seems to have gone to the edge of the universe and back, more than once and all at once. Ariel has been making dances in Austin a long time – I've barely scratched the surface of her body of work – and there's value in this collaborative perspective on the Bowie epic: It's reassurance that all we are expected to do in life is just keep on making the songs we need to make.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 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 The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting
'The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting'
'The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting'
Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke serve as inspirations for Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre's new dance-and-music collaboration

Robert Faires, Jan. 31, 2014

More Austin dance
ISHIDA Dance Company's <i>Beginning / αρχή</i>
ISHIDA Dance Company's Beginning / αρχή
This contemporary dance troupe's dynamic debut with "small bites" whetted the appetite for a full meal

Robert Faires, Jan. 10, 2020

ISHIDA Dance Makes Its Debut
ISHIDA Dance Makes Its Debut
A world-class contemporary dance troupe for Austin makes its first moves

Robert Faires, Jan. 3, 2020

More Arts Reviews
Review: Broadway in Austin’s <i>My Fair Lady</i>
Review: Broadway in Austin’s My Fair Lady
Still bright, brassy, and enchanting, this production of the sharp-tongued classic musical still needs to fix its modern ending

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 8, 2023

Review: “The Dog Show”
Review: “The Dog Show”
Hiromi Stringer curates a fictitious, dog-obsessed museum in her current solo show

Meher Qazilbash, Dec. 8, 2023

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


Austin dance, The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting, Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble, Super Creeps, Andrea Ariel, Nolan Kennedy, Adam Sultan, Alyson Dolan

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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