Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dance Review: Science Per Forms

In Carbon Dance Theatre's Science Per Forms Meredith Rainey and Marcel Williams Foster ask which drives which, the body or the machine?

Dance Review: Science Per Forms


In their song Human, The Killers ask “Are we human, or are we dancers?” The singer says his sign is vital, his hands are cold. On Thursday evening at Christ Church Neighborhood House, Meredith Rainey and Marcel Williams Foster put that question to the test in Carbon Dance Theatre’s Science Per Forms. It’s a wonderful title for a piece that explores humanity’s contest between body and machine and the question of which drives which.

The 45-minute work had multiple collaborators: Nine science, technology, architecture and design wonks from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania associated with IK Studio and the Hactory (yes, a haven for hackers,) and six dancers under the guiding light of Foster and Rainey.

The academics created the machina sans Deus, a table-shaped creature suspended so its four “legs” (manipulated by computer commands) could bend its “knees” inwards with spider-like efficiency.

Anna Noble is the interlocutor between the technology and the dancers and the unrelenting master of both. She wears “Accelerometer Devices” on her wrists, airplaning her arms so that each wrist commands a different-colored cube projected on the back screen. They stretch, dissolve, and spring back, much in the way a body might, or like dancer Annie Wilson who opened the work lying on the floor, contorting herself in twists and twitches that presaged the movement.

Snippets of Gabriel Prokofiev’s electronic and percussive music wafted between sounds like the airy raspberries babies make or the harsher, bilious blurbs adult bodies make, or spun into metallic, cistern-like echoes.

Inside the dangling legs, the dancers undulated as if by shock waves while the lower legs folded up into them. In threat or embrace? Five of the dancers, including Eiren Shuman-Sutton, Felicia Cruz, Daniella Currica and Sun-Mi Cho (Artistic Associate of Carbon Dance) writhe in tight formation as if trying to integrate themselves into one another but collapse from the tension.

Much of the choreography was ballet-based, suited to the machine theme. Four of the dancers leave the stage to join us in the audience greeting us in street clothes to watch Cho’s angst-filled solo with us. It leaves her limp on the floor, with Noble still in charge. Are Cho’s signs vital? Are Noble’s hands cold?

In an earlier, silent moment, we heard dogs barking outside at cars rumbling on the cobblestones -- the old and the animal, the new and the human.

This is a shared, alternating bill with Carbon Dance Theatre: Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m.

Mascher Space's Fresh Juice with Annie Wilson and Tori Lawrence & Co.: Sat: 2:30 p.m., Sun. 7:30 p.m. Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street,


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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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