Proceed with Caution: A Sign of the Times

by Gina Palumbo for The Dance Journal | photo credit Ryan Collerd

On September 21st, Darcy Lyons, director of Lyons & Tigers, brought Proceed with Caution to The Performance Garage for a second time at the Fringe Festival. With a clear vision and strong grip on the times, Lyons painted an honest picture of the current chaotic state of the country. Four dancers, each unique in voice and identity, equipped her with the tools necessary to describe somber themes and events with nothing short of artful expression.

Emma Elsmo, Gabi Montoya, Olivia Naegele & Sammi Rosenfeld stood as pedestrians unmoving against a projection of a city crosswalk, seemingly smack dab in the middle of New York City. A recording began playing about trust at the community level, as well as at the global level, with words from an interview with Bruce Schneier titled “On Trust.” Lyons spoke his words, explaining how trust exists in countless capacities in order to maintain relationships between human beings.

There was no trust present here as the dancers navigated the space in frantic runs, narrowly escaping the opportunity for contact and connection with one another. A video of dancer Olivia Naegele dropping groceries played, as she abstracted the happening into movement before our eyes. The other dancers surrounded her with vigilant glowers, slow to assist, and all too quick in judgment.

A speaking soundtrack transformed into loving jazz as Joshua Redman and The Bad Plus formed the suave sounds of As This Moment Slips Away. After spending some time in avoidance, the dancers began to look to one another for support and association. Delicately, each dancer explored the negative space around the other, initiating movements that were out of each still dancer’s control. It was similar to watching a piece of machinery being pulled apart and put back together again. Like magnets, they were pulled to each other, in constant assembly. They lifted one another off the floor effortlessly, a sign that a bond was formed between them.

Next began a series of solos that demonstrated a memory for each of the dancers. Lyons said, “The solos were inspired by the dancers imagining themselves in their own safe space. Proceed with Caution was truly a collaboration with the performers.”

Emma Elsmo, a Dance Journal writer, brought us in flight as she rattled off airplane safety guidelines by heart and the dancers materialized basic instructions into movement. At the close, the four dancers turned to face the projection, and watched in stunned silence as a newscast from September 11, 2001 played on. A photo then took hold on the screen, shocking us as it did the world that fateful day, of a man captured upside down after hurdling himself from the crumbling tower. The word ‘click’ was uttered, as was movement one. ‘Click,’ and then movement 2. Three ‘clicks’ and slowly and deliberately, Elsmo stood still at three separate times with her arms angled, as if in free fall, captured in a photo forever.

Trust was personalized in the final section when the recording was the voice of each dancer. A school counselor shared the question on her mind no person should have to wonder the answer to: “Is this the day that I protect my students with my own body?” Another felt she was no longer alone in her feelings about a particular night when the #MeToo movement began. Another shared the judgments of her loved ones when she revealed a development in her love life. Still, others revealed moments that broke their ability to trust, and yet they were here, trusting a whole audience with their words.

Proceed with Caution elicited distress, as the truth often does, but that is when change occurs. Lyons’ work also brought relief because it dispelled the notion that humans are alone in their pain.

About Gina Palumbo

Gina Palumbo is a native of Philadelphia and has a passion for the arts. She has received her B.A. in Dance from DeSales University in Center Valley. She has been spending post-graduate life practicing ballet and yoga, as well as working in a library as an assistant. She resides in Northeast Philadelphia with her mother Joanne, her brother Anthony, her Nonna Carmela, and her pet bunny, Phyllis.

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