Myth 2008 Eitland

The Myth Project III: American Dreaming
at The Warehouse in Barrio Logan (San Diego)
“Site-specific At Its Best
San Diego.com (3/24/2008)

March 2008

Inside a darkened warehouse under the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, four dancers dressed in blue uniforms by “Dickies” chug and twist black boots over a concrete floor. Mirroring a grainy slide of oilrigs projected on panel, they bend at the waist and stretch up and down in unison like one heavy machine. Metallic clanging echoes up into the rafters.

“Myth Project III, American Dreaming” is the third in a series of site-specific events that questions ancient myths. The industrial strength dances that rolled and drilled like steamrollers and jackhammers at an “unnamed” warehouse earlier this month followed the “Myth” canon, but took full advantage of the location and surroundings to further the artistic experience. The third installment of Myth Project was site-specific dance theater at its best.

Created by Patricia Rincon, in collaboration with visual artists Terri Hughes and Marcela Villasenor, and composer Don Nichols, Myth III was a fine balance of elements that recounted our cultural and political history; more important, the program challenged us to see that history repeats itself.

The sold-out program evoked surreal images of workers, immigrants and violence, but also freedom, tolerance and acceptance. It featured Deven P. Brawley, a longtime Rincon dancer who’s also performed with Michael Mizerany, Malashock and The PGK Project. He also heads d’shire dance, San Diego’s first all male dance company. But forget the biography – you’ll never forget his fire-red Mohawk and lanky intensity.

Together with Keely Campbell, Kristopher D. Ross and Justin Viernes, Br

awley held the audience captive. They were a fearless maintenance crew on a mission with personalities that grew on you. And they could tour jete and spin on concrete. Put on your work boots and give it a whirl in your garage some day to see how tough it is.

Early in the program, the dancers performed excruciating deep plies, only to be interrupted when a hydraulic lift rolled through. Without hesitation, Viernes had unsuspecting viewers sitting on the floor move out of the way. About 50 viewers were lucky enough to snag a chair in a raised “reserved” section. Dozens more stood against posts or peeked from the little bar tucked in the back. Yes, there was a delicious selection of beer and wines available, as well as food from a small kitchen.

Performed without an intermission, the program moved quickly. (I stood up for the entire performance. Still, the time zipped by). The dancers interacted with slides projected on three movable white panels. By moving the panels, the dancers carved the space and created shadows and new vanishing points that suggested a building boom as well as crowded living conditions.

Campbell was woman versus the machine in her dance with a shiny chrome sculpture. Engaging, but it was also the one section that needed editing. She contorted and hung over the metal like a child playing on a harmless jungle gym, but just as quick the metal became a deadly electric chair. Campbell also rolled out an edible sculpture of the Statue of Liberty and waived a gun around. Myth III didn’t omit any big social issue. Still, politics never felt overdone.

And there were dances about love. In a trio with Campbell, Ross and Brawley, their embrace and configuration were wonderfully accented by the music. Tension soared as they shifted into beautiful pendulum arm swings and dramatic runs and leaps, until Ross caught a horizontal Campbell in mid-flight. Then he left her.

Nichols’ sound score and layers of dialogue tied the passion, politics, and cultural points together in a very simple way. Sound quality was phenomenal. The voices and emotions felt real, not read from a script. Some of the c

omments were light and funny. Others tapped into the darker side of history and fueled dances reminiscent of the evening news.

In one chilling section, dancers arced on their bellies then rose to form a single line. Each tried to be first, clawing their way through the serpentine line to the front; it was that deeply American image seen in every decade – immigrants fighting for jobs and respect.

Another highlight had Viernes desperately climbing a wall. Of course it symbolized a man trying to scale the Mexican border fence, but also Everyman’s effort to climb higher, to get a raise, to by a house, or just stay alive. Poor Anthony Diaz was supposed to do the piece, but he suffered a knee injury, so an intrepid Viernes jumped in last minute and climbed with gusto.

For the finale, dancers portrayed farm workers toiling in a hot dusty field. They hefted big bags over their shoulders and poured the contents into rows. But the rows were multi-colored rice, and to the exotic sounds of Gamelan, they swirled the colors into a homogenized mix. Young people from the audience recited their personal American dreams and joined the dancers to create a beautiful sea of multi-ethnic bodies and voices.

“The Myth Project III: American Dreaming” 2008 continues March 28-30 at the Schoolhouse, an 1883 historic landmark in Encinitas. That radical change in environment will transform this production, which is what makes site-specific work so unpredictable and exciting. Presented by the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective. Seating is limited.

Kris Eitland
March 24, 2008