Darling Performance Group

My Honey, I Know: Review of Darling Performance Group’s dance/sing

Stepping into the MAAS garden space feels like a breath of fresh air – surrounded by vines creeping along the walls and covered above by the crisp white tent, it’s like being cocooned in the sweetest envelope. It’s hard to find a performance that can complement the space so well, but Darling Performance Group’s dance/sing appears to have done just that; with dulcet tones and repetitive movement, the group’s piece completely fills the space with joy and laughter.

A labor of love from collaborators Tori Breen, Katherine Desimine, Lillian McGonigle, Maddy Mikami, and Rodney Murray, dance/sing investigates how embodiment changes when breath and vocal work is added to physicality, choosing to favor not one or the other, but rather the feedback loop between the two. Throughout the piece, there’s various moments of duets and trios that are complemented by “offstage” – or rather “on-stair” – singing, but the real meat comes from when all performers are equally sharing the stage. 

There’s heat in the manipulation of bodies – grabbing, posing, moving, and lifting – that gives rise to thoughts about how we view the relationship between sound and space: are the performers using their sound to spur themselves on physically? Or does the movement activate the diaphragm, letting vocal c(h)ords flutter as air is pushed out of the body through the folding, twisting, and turning seen on stage? I found the usage of one song by the performers to be really fascinating, and a great way to dig into how different lyrical or melodic phrasing can enhance or take away from specific movement phrases or movement quality. In turn, I also found myself disappointed when movement would happen accompanied not by the dancer’s own voice but the voices of collaborators sitting and observing. 

The accompanying playbill notes that Darling Performance Group is interested in how “our attention to embodiment propose[s] creative strategies for singing in practice and performance,” which had me hoping for a propelling of the self through vocality: where does the sound live in our bodies? How can we harness it to further ourselves? By having the rest of the group perform live music for the soloist or duet on stage, it feels like the performance is simply allowing itself to be rooted in traditional theatrical avenues of song and dance (one thinks of musicals where a dancer is performing their heart out in center stage as the ensemble croons behind them) rather than interrogating the phenomenological happenings.

Above all, it’s joyful to watch this group at play, and their ease with one another is palpable. At one point towards the end, Breen attempts to learn Murray’s part of a duet with himself and McGonigle. As they stumble their way through the movement, following McGonigle’s lead, Murray steps out into the audience and gives notes, leading to a back and forth between Breen and Murray that eventually just devolves into Murray gleefully mocking Breen’s fast breaths. It’s silly and endearing in a way only close collaborators can accomplish. It’s well… darling.

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