by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | photo credit: Rob Li
Even overcast skies on Saturday, September 26, 2020 could not dampen my excitement about attending a live event since early March. Adding to that was that the two presenting dance artists were ones whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years, and were collaborating as independent choreographers for the first time. Evalina “Wally” Carbonell and Weiwei Ma, both company members of Philly-based Kun-Yang Lin/ Dancers (KYL/D), premiered BLOOD as part of the Fringe Festival.
BLOOD ran for 40 minutes without intermission and was packed with content. Carbonell and Ma produced a piece that was bold and dramatic in staging and physicality. Both dancers are beautiful technicians and stayed committed to the work throughout. Every movement held purpose; even the simple reach of an arm. They shared similar movement qualities that complemented each and showed how intentionally they worked together in building BLOOD. The solo work highlighted their more individual styles and seemed to emphasize the rush and flow of human blood. Ma performed a solo that undulated with fluidity while Carbonell’s was performed with sharper phrases and breath. The choreography encompassed the space, which made for an intimate experience.
BLOOD was performed in an open-air, converted garage that was tucked behind a residential home. Patrons were seated down the driveway with plenty of space between us. The only downside was that the partition that separated the two garage doors caused an obstructed view at times. Carbonell and Ma said the venue was a significant source of their inspiration. “It called to mind a quote from Edgar Allan Poe, “It was night, and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood.” Walls and doorways were used to demonstrate the connection to the blood of the earth. Its dimensions provided just enough depth as to not overwhelm the duo, who were also joined onstage by cellist, Ajibola Jeremy Rivers. Rivers contributed original composition and interpretations of existing works. This was interspersed with pre-recorded music from other composers. The dance and music seemed to be a perfect marriage when watching the artists perform together.
Props and staging played a prominent part in symbolizing the connection to human plasma. Bowels of water allowed the dancers to purify themselves while representing the shifting sensations of the bloodstream. Two swings propelled the women into space to show how blood memories connect the past and future. River’s cello provided a pulsing heartbeat.
Clear guidelines for COVID19 safety and social distancing were emailed to ticket holders prior to the performance. This included patrons wearing masks while at the venue. The artists did not wear masks on stage and allotted for 6 feet between themselves and the audience. Carbonell explained that she and Ma chose early in the process, and in the pandemic, to include one another in their immediate bubbles of trust. They were fortunate enough not to become ill between March and last weekend. This allowed them to work intimately, safely, and successfully in the creation of BLOOD.