by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal
The sense of community found in small studio performances enhances the nature of unity and artistic expression. Llegando is the epitome of community in a small studio space. A work in progress performed as part of the Solow Festival on Wednesday, June 20th, this piece seemingly touched on achieving one’s desires, the importance of family, and the necessity of getting lost to find one’s path. More a piece of performance art than a dance performance, Belle Alvarez and Carl(os) Roa both showcased their talents through singing and acting enhanced by minimal amounts of movement.
Walking into Headlong Dance Theater, there were 12 empty chairs laid out and various fabrics placed arbitrarily throughout the space. The performers introduced themselves with a level of enthusiasm that eased the discomfort of my being the only person in the room with them at that moment. As more people entered the space, with Latin music playing in the background, Alvarez and Roa made their way through the room interacting with every individual in the audience. It was clear the pair had an effervescent quality about them that made everyone gregarious and anticipatory of what the two were about to present.
With little indication as to what the piece was about, the artists made several quips about the DIY nature of Llegando. The performance then began as Alvarez got dressed in the ponchos and scarves that had previously been laid out in the space. With references to working in a factory and selling “cultured fabrics”, it was clear the characters-cousins Pancho and Destiny had concerns about money and work. Humor was added as the two laughed and danced their way, believably living up the night at a bar in the mountains. Performed almost entirely in silence, Roa and Alvarez mimed climbing and mapping their way to La Ciudad, though there was no resolution as to why they were going there in the first place. With two dance breaks, the stylized free-wheeling movement was used to enhance the storyline rather than be the focal point of the work.
The characters were well established by speaking in both English and Spanish. The props were used masterfully to indicate location shifts, the subtle humor was clear to those listening, but the storyline left something to be desired. It was difficult to track at times where Pancho and Destiny were physically supposed to be throughout the piece as well as who the different spiritual characters were that they were attempting to portray. In the end, I left feeling as though I got the gist of their story rather than understanding the meaning behind it. That being said, with more attention to detail and time, Llegando has the makings of a heartwarming, thought-provoking, relatable piece of performance art and I look forward to seeing what the two talented artists come up with next.