by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal
Recycled materials and captivating costumes filled WeftWorks’ Fringe Festival performance Before/After at CHI MAC this past weekend. Fronted by fiber artist Sarah Carr, this work provided the audience with a much-needed exploration of our simultaneously thriving and dying ecosystems. Filled with enchanting costume enhancements and curiously placed props, Before/After pushed the boundaries of what defines the impact people and society have on the one planet we live on.
The articulate melding of projection and movement began as two dancers entered the space in front of a video that looked like LED lights and bubble wrap. The simplistic color theme of grey and blue on the dancers countered the bright lights in the projection complimentarily, and the mirrored movement the duo performed further set up a dynamic of echoing relationships found in the space. The borderline cliché modern dance movements that comprise the first piece allowed for an adjustment period to the strange world in which Carr was creating around the audience.
With a satisfying stop-motion aesthetic, the piece continued to intrigue as a soloist entered wearing a bubble wrap skirt with striking a blue as an accent color filling the space. While the older performer danced through the space, I couldn’t help but smile simply because her movement quality reminded me of being a little kid jumping up and down popping bubbles on large sheets of bubble wrap. The flash of past memory both surprised and delighted me, though I wasn’t certain as to why it was such a visceral response to such simplistic movement. As Before/After progressed, I realized this was a wholly immersive experience. It was a piece that was able to engage a viewer both visually and auditorily by using props and sounds that enticed the audience into a sedated state of being.
Tackling social dynamics through mocking the dependency on technology, Carr was able to choreographically express the narrative of people only showcasing the best versions of themselves on social platforms. Furthermore, the notions of liking and disliking on social media were actualized through the usage of light-up emojis on sticks. The all too familiar anxiety attached to media was easily accessed as an audience member, once again taking me to a place of visceral memory. The Before section closed with a striking solo about the dangers of plastic water bottles as people filled a mesh skirt with bottles and the dancer seemingly drowned under them.
After, was clearly characterized by a nature focus. It was hard to focus on anything but the stunning costume designs created from recycled materials. Interestingly enough, I found the dancing to be last on my list of focus throughout After. The direct concentration on nature allowed me to enter a peaceful, stream of consciousness mindset in which I was freed to consider the implications of what people are doing to destroy the environment that so kindly allows us to live in it. From large bird heads to giant octopus-like entities, the props so rightfully defined the second half of the show but was the complex artistic mind of Sarah Carr who created a work that so seamlessly connected physical art, movement practice, and environmental activism throughout Before/After.