Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Forest for the Trees

September 17, 2010

I Ketut Rina, Sardono W. Kusumo and Bambang “Besur” Suryono Photo: Steven Gunther/REDACAT 2010

Thursday was the opening night of the Fall season for REDCAT, Cal Arts' black box theater in the basement of Walt Disney Concert Hall. Of course, REDCAT, as Executive Director Mark Murphy reminded the crowd at the evening’s reception, is a multi-disciplinary space with a theater used for both performance and film as well as a gallery space for visual art. Thursday included the opening of Not Only Time: Zhang Peili and Zhu Jia the newest exhibit in the gallery, and as if to highlight the interdisciplinary approach of the theater, the Sardono Dance Theater presented a world premiere dance work, Rain Coloring Forest in collaboration with lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, composer David Rosenboom ,and video artist Maureen Selwood. The dance troupe's leader, 65 year old Sardono W. Kusumo, is a dancer, painter, actor, and all around artist who works primarily out of Indonesia but who has made regular appearances all over the globe. And much like its creator, Rain Coloring Forest is much more than a dance piece. The work is structured around several giant canvases, some as tall as 30 feet, painted by Sardono in the tradition of Tibetan "Tanka" works and hung from a metal frame. The “trees” are raised from the floor at the opening of the work and dominate the stage throughout. Of course like a real forest, they rarely look the same from minute-to-minute thanks to the work of Jennifer Tipton, whose lighting design work is all over L.A. stages this month. These giant scroll paintings transform from a frightening nighttime forest to a friendly woodland glade almost imperceptibly.

But the collision between artistic media doesn’t stop there. While there is certainly movement from Sardono and two other male dancers during Rain Coloring Forest, a lot of it involves interacting with other painted canvases which the dancers drape or enfold themselves in at times. Furthermore, in the final sequences of the work, Sardono creates yet another painting on a canvas stretched across a slanted panel of the floor. He rapidly throws paint across the slanted canvas which is then raised as the paint runs down, gravity blurring the image as he and the other dancers, who are now masked as if Adam and Eve, watch in amazement.

This is certainly somewhat unusual fare and to be honest I couldn't tell you about the meaning of it all. Sardono has an interest in a variety of political and environmental issues, and Rain Coloring Forest appears to reflect on humanity’s relationship to nature. Dancers appear from the forest of paintings wrapped in canvases or huge costumes of shredded material as if to resemble wild creatures of the forest. Other canvases snake along the sides of walls to take over the stage. The movements are rarely conventionally graceful and are often accompanied by deep throat based vocalizations. Sardono himself appears atop the blank canvas he will later paint as a dishevled and uncoordinated creature, regarding his limbs, hands and feet as if they were new to him. Slowly he learns to walk upright and welcomes the forest around him. He then litters the stage with mounds of shredded material paving the way for the entrance of the masked Adam and Eve. In addition to this activity, a near-psychedelic soundtrack of sampled groans and wails is recorded and played again and again with the assistance of David Rosenboom. I was rather taken with Rain Coloring Forest both in spite and because of its unfamiliarity. It may have been many things besides dance, but it was always thoughtful.

P.S. : I want to give a special shout out the the overweight Eric Bogosian look-alike two rows in front of me. Nothing says boorish like justifying your incessant talking during the performance by noting that you were bored and attend "lots" of dance events. Charmed, I'm sure.



I've seen better dancers and dancing...but boy, I shore liked the finished paintings and watching one being made right in front of our eyes!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter