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Student Author Progam – Review: Thirdbird’s The whole time in the meanwhile


by Chelsey Nicole Hamilton for The Dance Journal
This review is part of the Dance Journal’s Student Author Program. Chelsey was mentored by Dance Journal writer, Kat Richter. Chelsey is a sophomore at Temple University, majoring in Journalism and Dance. She has been dancing various styles since the age of four and is very excited for this opportunity to combine her two passions, as well as becoming more involved in the arts community of Philadelphia.

Thirdbird presented The whole time in the meanwhile on January 24, 2013 at dusk at Christ Church Neighborhood House Theater in Old City. Conceived by choreographer Meg Foley, this performance was very different than a traditional dance concert, yet equally as captivating and creative.

The performance starts in a dimly lit room, creating a dream like state. There is a clump of dancers laying on the ground, and a pile of chairs on the other side of the room. One by one, the dancers stand up, grab a chair, and hand it to an audience member along with a piece of candy and instructions of where to sit. Chris Forsyth, the musician for the performance, and Foley are sitting in two chairs in the center of the space looking straight ahead.

Lenore Doxsee, the lighting designer, and Foley slowly stand up and open and close the blinds, letting a stream of sunlight into the dark room. In the program for the show, Foley writes about time passing, which I assume is what they are trying to show by opening the blinds around the time of the sunset. Forsyth, still sitting, throws a plastic egg and then gets up and retrieves it three times. An eerie red light peers over him as he starts to play his acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, two dancers in distinct polka-dotted pants start whispering as Foley starts dancing, and they join her.

In an emotional twist to the performance, Forsyth starts to speak about his acoustic guitar that he has been playing, and then tells the story of a friend of his that got in a devastating motorcycle accident. Foley starts to dance to his story, and her performance speaks many emotions, and seems almost interpretive. The performers then ask the audience to get out of their chairs, lie down in a line, and stare at the ceiling. As audience members hesitantly do so, the dancers start to jump and dance over the line of people while making noises with their mouths. With colorful lights on the ceiling, the experience becomes captivating and magical, although unusual. 

Audience members are then instructed to walk up to the balcony seats. Foley performs a solo to the acoustic guitar, leading her to the balcony, where she gets up close and personal with the audience. She alternates between fast and slow movements and travels throughout the whole space, creating an illusion that is very strong and intense; it is hard to look away from her.

Forsyth brings back the plastic eggs he was throwing in the beginning of the performance. As he shakes the eggs into the microphone they make a maraca noise, and Foley’s dancing becomes more of a hip-hop style in contrast to the rest of her performance.  She freezes whenever he stops shaking the eggs, creating a really mysterious feel that changes up the style of the performance.

To end the performance, the rest of the dancers re-enter the space and perform a very calm and in-sync quartet with Foley, before rolling out of the space as the lights dim. In the program, Foley writes about how this was a “first done” version of her work and how she believes that art should be interactive. Contrary to a common dance performance, this show was indeed very interactive and always had the audience on their toes about what was going to happen next.

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