Jul 15, 2008

No Eggshells/Outside by Pedro Alejandro

Click here to view the video.

It's wonderful when the universe sends you someone that is intellectually curious, generous of heart and creative. Marcos and I are getting to know a new found friend and fellow artist by the name of Pedro Alejandro. He teaches dance at Wesleyan, and recently presented a piece called No Eggshells/Outside. I'm always eager to share interesting things with my good people. So, here is a link to the video and an entry describing my reaction to the piece. Enjoy.

As I watched the video presentation of No Eggshells/Outside, through the Sepia tone veneer, it invoked within me a feeling that bridged the ancient with the modern, the man-made with the organic, the individual with the group. These layers of non-colors also created a dreamlike world.

The stage direction of the performance was new to me. The audience first encounters the performance occurring in an open field of grass, and are then ushered into a space a several feet away that is comprised of stone and cement. This is clever staging in that it provides the audience the choice to participate in the experience, by continuing to travel deeper into the world that is being created.

The soundscape that the dancers perform within intrigued me. For me the sounds are tethered to an ambient undercurrent that is trance like, while industrial and natural sounds serve as lyrical percussion. Think of a person chanting Ohm in a city dwelling while the sounds of the city and nature interject.

I saw three worlds being portrayed in the video. The first and most visible was the world of the here and now. This world is filled with ritual, human interaction and constructs. The beings in this world interact with conditioned understanding, while under the surface I felt they wanted a deeper connection which each other. This was apparent to me when at times they relied on each others bodies for creating the energy needed to propel their movement.

At the core of this world is a struggle humans experience between the artificiality of society and their intrinsic nature. This is displayed through the movement of the dancers that at times halts unexpectedly, as well as the moments, where the influence of organic African and Capoiera movements surface throughout the piece.

The second world is presented through the video vignettes of the dancers that is projected on the walls at the actual performance, and layered into the video in order to move the viewer away from the stage performance. I look at this as a view into the thoughts of the people that live within this world.

The other world is based in a deeper fantasy. What seems like rabbit figures to me take us deeper into a hidden world. These figures play with natural elements, such as water, as if they understand it in a way the beings of the first world are not able to see.

A woman eats a boiled egg. She is not dining but consuming. There is no expression of her enjoying the meal. It’s a methodic consumption of substance. I find it to be a metaphor of modern people taking in, without thought of consequence or enjoyment.

The Sepia tone removes color. It is a warm light that can make us see nuances, but not where we should live. An eggshell is benign in color, but what is within the eggshell, is vivid in purpose. In order to transform the egg into life requires commitment and patience. The unique flavor of the egg is diminished through mass production. What is missing is the open pastures for freedom of movement, thought, and support by knowledgeable souls. This is needed in order to give birth to life-affirming hatchlings, that can color our world.


Todd HellsKitchen said...

What a thoughtful and clever critique.

Anonymous said...

Allan thank you for your review of “No Eggshells/Outside.” You brought up to my attention a wonderful selfless interpretation of his piece. As you know When Pedro Alejandro invited me to view his work entitled “No Eggshells/Outside”
I was a bit apprehensive about attending because of the venue; Wesleyan University.
I thought about how the university has assisted in the creation of a caste system,
that often assumes ignorance to culture, or to movement, by people like me. This
created apprehension and prejudice within me because of his association to Academia,
which by history has deemed me as insufficient to their written knowledge, based
standards and because my Puerto Rican Queer Radical, Santero Culture meant little
to the university.

I decided to show up for one of the most wonderful thought provoking artists, I
have ever come across in my life. I fought with core instincts and showed up, as
myself, which is an emerging artist, enraged, Puerto Rican queer, ready to offer
objections if need be.

My first reaction to the piece was in its location I was asked to congregate in
front of the auditorium not inside the auditorium, where two performers appeared
in Japanese inspired costumes that were a merging of Isaac Mizrahi and Issey Miyake
designs. The costumes also invoke anime characters, which my fifth graders are so
drawn to sketch over and over again. Gender narratives were blurred when both performers
showed up in the same outfit and proceeded to instruct the audience to follow them
and to be part of the performance. Even though my skepticism grew, I cooperated
and strolled along with the “comparsa” to find that in the new location the dancers
were already engaged with the elements associated with the pseudo traffic conglomerates
of the suburbia setting of campus, such as, traffic lights mailboxes and trees.

When the dancers began to approach the crowd my stomach turned, fearing them
to flaunt there gorgeous bodies and to camouflage their superior body structures
with movements I am incapable of manifesting either because of age, or because lack
of technique. I however was surprise when the artists instead of pirouetting themselves
around the crowd, threw themselves to the ground with much humility to their craft,
their audience, and the ground that they were now caressing. This action reminded
me of a Yoruba tradition where a younger priests or initiate throws him or herself
in front of older priests, as a sign of respect and to receive a blessing.

The dancers then proceeded to a new location were now instead of caressing the
grass they had to navigate amidst a Bauhaus architectural inspired concrete structure,
in which a public stage was improvised out of found objects and while beautiful
projections reflected on the walls.

At this point I was convinced that either the choreographer was throwing at me all
the tricks he had under his sleeves or he truly was experimental like all art should
be; without dogma or without concessions. Without any question in my mind Pedro’s
“No Eggshells/Outside,” was experimental and magical. To witness dancers respond
to concrete, water, light, props, grass, and the scrutiny of the spectators at such
close proximity left me feeling optimistic that the boundaries of movement are migrating
to new spheres. I saw a narrative of acceptance for movement beyond principles of
written knowledge, and structural confines, or buildings or politics. “No Eggshells/Outside”
was outstanding because the underline message was that the beauty of dancing can
equally translate, culture, gender, caste, and roles to new and sometimes challenging

Marcos Colon