From the seclusion of my apartment, at night, with the lights off, by the light of the computer screen, I clicked on the link and began. Dance is so sculptural — I wasn’t sure how this performance would translate to a two-dimensional medium. Since the Pones create site-specific work, I wondered how it would not be a PBS “Great Performance” or a music video kind of dance experience. What I wasn’t expecting was the strangely emotional journey they took me on with their performance, “Proximity.”
Space, time and distance. Yearning for connection in the time of COVID-19. Solitude. A world without touch. “Proximity” explores all of this and more.
The dancers do not play to the camera. Instead, the camera finds dancers performing in empty public landscapes where people typically congregate: Art Climb. Bridges over the river. Cincinnati Public Library. Findlay Market. Fountain Square. Inside an empty restaurant. Mt. Adams. Music Hall. Taft Theater. The Great American Ballpark. Union Terminal. It is clear: these are not normal times. While the camera occasionally reveals people in the background walking a dog or cutting across a field, these glimpses only enhance the eeriness of the environment.
The choreography resonates with visual references to hand-washing,
the heaviness in the chest of those infected with the coronavirus, of spinning
out of control. Dancers, with the expansive blue sky behind them, seem to float.
Hair and bodies move against backdrops of light. The emptiness of these
familiar spaces creates a hollow place that the dancers accentuates.
The music, ethereal: strangely empty and rich — reflects the surreal images of the dancers’ movements as they repeat patterns, mirror each other or flirt with touch. The camera angles, the overlapping layers of sound and images create a dreamlike mood that echoes the new reality we’re adjusting to. Trying to adjust to.
Just as you think it can’t go on in the same way, it doesn’t. Led by a new type of sound, the camera guides the viewer into new vistas, new angles, new heartbreaking spaces. Director of photography and editor, Ian Timothy Forsgren, and his fellow performers fill the spaces they dance in and the space between. Integral to all of this, the soundscape. Music by Chihei Hatakeyama and Shawn Elsbernd; the sounds of birds and the wind; of breathing; a clocking ticking, ticking, ticking set a tone reflecting the anxiety and isolation of this time. Spoken word artist, Jyreika Guest, uses words that reverberate through the dancers’ movement.
Interspersed throughout are glimpses of a sly wit, a sense of humor, of hope, and even, of joy. Art is a mirror that shows us ourselves. Pones interpret the interior landscape of this time in a way that is oddly disconcerting and comforting.
Visit artswave.org/fringe for a full lineup of the 2020 Festival!
Kari E. McLean is a returning wanderer getting reacquainted with the area and its exemplary arts programming. A theater aficionado, a coffee addict and a Fiona fan, she keeps turning up in spots all over the Tri-State like a good penny.