by Gregory King for The Dance Journal
In the Martial Posture Martial Arts Studio in Center City, the four women of Wolfthicket growled, giggled, sulked, pranced, scooted, skipped, gyrated, bounced, and punched, while inviting the audience into a not subtle world, laced with themes of gender and sexuality.
An artistic collaboration between Lily Kind and Adam Stone, PIDGIN produces original works that intersect at the nexus of music, dance, visual art, design and theatre. After initially questioning the source of inspiration behind the appellations Wolfthicket and PIDGIN, I allowed my curiosity to lead me into the unconventional dance performance space where PIDGIN’s newest production Wolfthicket, would come to life.
On Saturday March 19th, I was summoned into a studio where four pillars, one of which was being punched obstinately by performer Johanna Kasimow. As I watched, the thumping action of Kasimow, which was somewhat symbolic, I was escorted into a metaphoric world of tackling male dominance – dismembering patriarchy.
Kasimow served as narrator, introducing cast members Kelsey lancet, Mary-Carmen Webb, and Elizabeth Weinstein, before diving into their presentation that redefined femininity, and explored sexuality, while confronting misogyny.
Wearing shorts and t-shirts, the performers frolicked, often demonstrating interactions riddled with sexual tension and comedic exposition. No instant was so reminiscent of comedy and sex as when all four women mounted the pillars before resting in suggestive erotic sitting positions. They rocked their pelvises back and fourth while groaning and moaning, sometimes in hostile tones. This scene dawdled for a while before they descended the pillars, clinging to the sturdy structures with their legs wrapped around them. There were no apologies for this provocative display, instead, these actions deemed the women’s authority over their primal selves.
Along with the vocabulary created, the sounds being made by the performers amplified the experience. There were sexual moans, short spurts of hostile grunts, quiet apologetic murmurs, lip-syncing pleasantry, and coquettish giggles, which all aided in supporting our understanding that sound, like movement, acts as glue in cementing a narrative.
From press release to performance space, I was slightly misled into thinking that Wolfthicket relied on karate to create a through line. The punching of the pillar by Kasimow in the beginning and the use of block pads to build a barricade, were the only allusions of a karate sensibility and I wanted nothing more than the performers to fish choreography from the karate vocabulary, giving credence to the fact that dance can reside in all movement.
Amidst the flamboyantly gregarious display among the four performers, the technical dancing ability of Weinstein shone. She performed saut de chats, développés, and attitude turns with articulate lines and precise execution. But I wanted more… and I wanted it interwoven into the performance to support a narrative and was not random injections of dance because she was capable.
By the end of the performance, I was no closer to connecting the title to the content. I clung to the fact that maybe the “wolf” part of the title, was referential to some of the sounds they made throughout the performance – the howling, the cackling, the hissing, and the grumbling.
A new addition to the performance arena in Philadelphia, PIDGIN offers another perspective to themes often explored in the arts and although Wolfthicket seemed unresolved, I welcomed the vision of Kind and Stone as it provided additional voice.
A weaving of text, song, dance, pedestrian gestures, authentic friendly interactions, and comedic interplay, Wolfthicket was more than an evening of entertainment – it was a bold presentation, reinforcing the feminine existence in terrains historically and audaciously governed by men.
***All photographs courtesy of PIDGIN