by Gary L. Day for The Dance Journal
Group Motion established its Spiel Uhr Series in 1989 to showcase new dance and performance works in conjunction with other local or national artists. Not just dance, the series seeks to feature artists working in music,mime, visual arts, poetry, dance theater and that catch-all, do-what-you-will category of “interdisciplinary performance art.” This year’s series, curated by Manfred Fischbeck, was presented as a one-evening-only on June 4.
The program was divided into two sections, the first being a two-part piece called “:Syria—a Fractal of WE”; the second being called “Solo Not Alone.””Both fell into the category of “interdisciplinary performance art,” which ended up being highly ironic, since “discipline” was the quality most lacking in the evening’s presentation..
Part 1 of “Syria—a Fractal of We” was essentially a solo act, with Mary Carmen-Webb moving and reacting emotionally to music and a video by Niloufar Nourbakhsh. The video was essentially a series of slides depicting the plight of Syrian refugees, and the choreography, as directed by Manfred Fischbeck, was little more than Ms. Carmen-Webb wandering around the stage being sad or thoughtful or angst-ridden at the sight of the Syrian tragedy.
Part 2 started when Ms. Carmen-Webb was joined onstage by five more women, and the dismal recorded score was replaced by live guitarist Tim Motzer. The program notes told me that “the dance and live music are structured improvisations.” The section was not without interest, thanks to Motzer’s hypnotic playing, but the choreography was at best simplistic and unsophisticated.
The second section, “Solo Not Alone” was perhaps most problematic for me, in that it was one of those “performance art” pieces that was, honestly, more self-indulgence than performance. The performing auteur, Aura Fischbeck, came onstage, borrowed items from the audience, wandered around a bit, spoke extemporaneously to the audience for a while about what she was feeling, played a bit with some of the borrowed items, ran some slides that were meant to explain what this performance piece meant, and jumped on a trampoline. What was the point? I don’t know. I might know if I had read Ms. Fischbeck’s extensive program notes, but if a piece of art’s meaning has to be spelled out to you, it cannot be said to have communicated effectively.
It’s perfectly okay if an artist’s intended message is different from what the audience perceives, because something at least is being communicated. The artists involved in this year’s Spiel Uhr didn’t seem able to communicate anything beyond an adolescent earnestness.
Group Motion’s 2017 Spiel Uhr series was presented for one performance only on June 4 at the CEC, 3500 Lancaster Ave. For future Group Motion projects, call 215-387-9895, or visit groupmpotion.org.