FringeArts Review: Leah Stein’s Splice is a masterful exploration of space, sound and movement

by Steven Weisz for The Dance Journal

Leah Stein’s Splice, presented as part of the FringeArts Festival, is a masterful exploration of space and the intersection of sound and movement. Known for her site specific work, Stein’s selection of Jeremy Homes’ sculpture installation, Convergence, provides the perfect backdrop for her choreographic process.

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Upon entering the Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University, the audience is immediately surrounded by the twists and turns of a giant ribbon-like wooden pathway that engulfs the space in all directions. The wood ribbon itself is suspended from invisible fishing line and appears to float and emit its own kinetic energy. Using five varieties of North American hardwoods, Holmes explores the contrasts between the abstract shapes of bent wood and the hard geometric lines of the empty gallery space in which it resides.

After a period of exploration, the audience is invited to sit on cushions or stools randomly placed throughout the space. It did not go unnoticed that this allows one to view the piece from a multitude of perspectives. In fact, midway through the performance, the audience is encouraged to get up and move to a new vantage point for exactly this purpose.

Eventually, dancers JungWoong Kim, David Konyk and Michele Tantoco enter the space creating their own sounds, by which their movement is guided. Eventually, Stein herself  joins this process. The company spent a significant time last year investigating voice and movement, guided by the deep listening practice of Pauline Oliveros.  Oliveros pioneered the concept of Deep Listening to inspire both trained and untrained musicians to practice the art of listening and responding to environmental conditions in solo and ensemble situations.

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As the piece progresses and the dancers traverse the space, their bodies and lines meld with the sculpture. The movement is deeply layered, evoking textures, tension and at times seems suspended as the sculpture itself.

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The audience is asked to use more than just their visual sense by putting their ears against the sculpture as the dancers stroke, knock and drum on the ribbons. A deep set of guttural sounds rises from the wood adding to the all-encompassing sensory experience and bringing the inanimate to life.

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At one point, a bit of levity is added as JungWoong Kim exits only to appear again on roller blades. With precision he glides not only through the space and sculpture but also amongst the audience. His movements and spoken words juxtapose to his fellow dancers and the sculpture creates another set of architectural intersections, images and splices.

As the piece draws to a conclusion, the dancers move with extraordinary precision and timing, despite their separation in space. Their fluidity intertwines with the ribbon-like wood and the connection to the entire space takes on its own life and creates a wonderous multi-sensory experience.

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Additional performances will take place on Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission. Student and dance professional’s admission is $15. To purchase tickets, click here or call 215.413.1318.

Holmes’ “Convergence” exhibition will be on display in the URBN Center Annex’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery (3401 Filbert St.) through Sunday, Sept. 28. The gallery is free and open to the public during the summer from Wednesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Beginning Sept. 22, the gallery will also be open on Tuesdays.

About Steven Weisz

A Graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with advanced degrees in Psychology and Education is an entrepreneur and CEO for several for-profits and non-profit corporations in the region. He is also an adjunct professor of Psychology with several local Universities.

Steven is currently the CEO of Delaware Valley on Line, one of the first regional Internet Service Provides that now focuses on business-class web hosting, design, and internet marketing. He is president and founder of Rainbow Promotions Inc., a special events and entertainment agency established in the late 70’s, that services corporate and retail accounts both locally and nationally.

Steven is the Founder of PhiladelphiaDANCE.org, the largest web presence and resource for the dance community in the greater Philadelphia region, and the Founder and Editor of The Dance Journal. His involvement in the dance community extends to being Director of Graffito Works, an international platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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