Raisa Punkki’s Fleshless Interactions of the Flesh

Photo by Raisa Punkki

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Have you ever lost some time watching cymatics experiments on YouTube? Watching sound vibrations organize sand or water into geometric shapes is cool. But really, why should it seem surprising that energy organizes matter? That the shapes are beautiful and symmetrical might make us feel the presence of some order — a suggestion that humans didn’t create math but discovered it. Watching Raisa Punkki’s piece Controle (at ODC through tomorrow, March 17) reminded me of those experiments. Her dancers popped and locked and formed up and broke form like a bunch of radically free sand grains getting organized into something beautiful. And then destroying that beauty to bring forth the next form.

Photo by Raisa Punkki

Somewhere between stasis and chaos there is a zone of movement that taps both. The five dancers — Dalton Alexander, Derek Harris, Meegan Hertensteiner, Hien Huynh and Karla Quintero were clearly channeling Punkki’s stated intention to investigate the frenetic stasis of our current moment. They used familiar dance patterns of repetition, theme and variation, but they managed to transform the language of restriction into a transmission of energy. Their movements called to mind the shifting from gadget to gadget to cursory in-real-life interaction that has become commonplace, with barely a blink between one lighted screen and the next. For many that means leaving the body in a state of stasis as the brain cycles through emotions and experiences that once upon a time required us to leave our chairs.

The beginning and end and ultimate shape of the piece was held and created by set designer Alice Malia. She unrolled, marked and tented large rolls of paper, creating a landscape through which the dancers moved, a simultaneous creation of road and walker. During the opening sequence, she marked exes with increasing speed and undiminished accuracy, which you might say is the goal of our current zeitgeist.

Photo by Raisa Punkki

But doing more things faster doesn’t necessarily make things better, an idea you might forgive me for extracting when the dancers mimed violence. Malia and the dancers never actually touch, they seem to coexist for the most part blindly. The exception was the moment when Malia, with a gesture, caused Alexander (who limned his own destruction with striking falls and leaps) to roll up into the paper. Later she carried the empty paper roll like a wrapped corpse. Jack Beutller’s subtle lighting and sound designer Aaron Gold’s not so subtle, but elemental music offered up air and wind. All told Controle is a fully formed atmosphere, both familiar and unsettling.

 

 

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