Review: Fore-ign/Four-out

Photo: Blue Chemical Photography

by Hannah Joo for The Dance Journal
Fore-ign/Four-out presented an evening of original works as part of the FringeArts Festival at the CHI Movement Arts Center on Septemeber 16 & 17th. Evalina Carbonell, Melissa Chisena, Annielille Gavino-Kollman, and Nikolai McKenzie, already well known performers with Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers and Chisena Danza, each upheld their individual reputations as technical masters and creative movers. Each piece provided a distinct account on the human condition, covering an impressive range of reflective and relevant themes. Fore-ign/Four-out did not come short in its sensitive yet honest commentary of personal, social, and cultural issues.

The evening opens to a full house with Matriz, choreographed by Evalina Carbonell. A thick, black sheet is draped from one wall to the other, connecting the ends of the stage together. Carbonell walks out behind the curtain into center stage, her midriff replaced by the black velvet and her limbs carefully maneuvering around it. Other female dancers enter the space, weaving in and out of the cloth until Carbonell is wrapped with the sheet. As it slides off her body, we finally see her full figure and her full belly. The reveal of Carbonell’s pregnancy is just one facet of the word “matriz,” which is Spanish for womb. The cast of female dancers continue to explore the different dimensions of womanhood through solos and duets, delving into the interconnections and legacy of female relationships.

Nikolai McKenzie’s Boy, begins with a recording of traditional Maori Haka. McKenzie emerges tentatively as the echos of Haka chants fill the room. This juxtaposition of McKenzie’s cautious demeanor against the dominant cries of Maori men raises interesting questions regarding masculinity from the very beginning of the piece. Wearing nothing but a pair of small white shorts and a pink ‘x’ taped to his chest, McKenzie starts to move and speak, the words melding effortlessly into the reverberations of his body. He holds an open book in his hand, telling a story about his father. The book never leaves his hand, and although McKenzie borrows text from several sources, his delivery claims complete ownership of the words. The spoken word gracefully complements his dance, neither overpowering the other but conjoining into an embodied history of his own journey from boy to man. A poignant and provocative commentary on masculinity, Boy ends with the same Haka chants and different view of the male consciousness.

Entangle, choreographed and performed by Melissa Chisena in collaboration with Marie Brown, investigates manipulation, constraint, and surrender. Chisena stands in the center of the stage wearing a large skirt that pools out underneath her. She remains rooted, caged within her skirt, struggling against her confines. As her body lowers in a gesture of surrender, the skirt grows from behind her and Brown emerges through the top so that both bodies appear conjoined. Though connected by appearance, the dancers struggle with no way to free themselves from the skirt. They grab one another, twisting and bending against each other. In the physical manifestations of restriction, Chisena and Brown offer a perspective in which we discover that we are not isolated from our struggles but endure a cyclical continuation of internal resistance and submission.

The second half continues with another piece by Melissa Chisena entitled Breath. With percussion by Jonathan Cannon and original breath-work score by Katonya Mosley, the entire piece is set to the sound of breathing and soft drumming. With impressive control, Chisena rises and falls to the inhales and exhales of long, deep breaths. The breath-score joins the percussion in a captivating rhythm. While Chisena maintains qualities of build and release, her movement begins to gather in strength and speed as the breathing becomes more frantic until she drops to the floor, breaths fading. In a clear connection between body and breath, Chisena expands our notion of physical control in her mindfulness of breath and its ability to motivate growth, release, and even chaos.

To end the evening, Annielille Gavino-Kollman presents La Migra, Let’s Run, a comedic yet heartbreaking look into immigration and assimilation in the United States. La Migra, Let’s Run incorporates a large cast and a diverse variety of language, ages, music, and dance tradition. Gavino-Kollman cleverly removes the innocence of American past times to expose the harsh reality of being a minority living in the US. A classroom teacher plays the Star Spangled Banner and instructs his students to separate by identifiable characteristics of shapes and colors like triangle or blue. A hopeful migrant played by Gavino-Kollman arrives only to discover that she is neither ethnic enough nor American enough. She attempts several different ethnic dances in a hilariously stereotypical presentation, but it is only until she paints her face white and transforms into a caricature of her mime-like character that she can fully be integrated into her new community. A friendly game of baseball escalates as the umpire yells “STRIKE, FOUL, OUT, SAFE!” more and more intensely until the exclamation of “OUT!” turns into a command for immigrants who supposedly don’t belong to leave and get out. The call “safe” loses its meaning as all the baseball players are cast out. The piece concludes with Gavino-Kollman’s impersonation of Donald Trump. The audience cannot help but laugh, but the humor lingers heavily of sadness. In these clownish depictions of American life, La Migra, Let’s Run forces us to face the realities of what it means to be a citizen of this country, especially in face of political and cultural violence that is happening on our doorsteps.