Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Only Tribe (3LD)

BOTTOM LINE: Masks and dance are an interesting combo in theory...

I think I've seen maybe two straight-up movement pieces in my life up til last week, and was when I was 12, so I figured it was about time I gave them another shot. The Only Tribe, Roland Gebhardt's performance piece, sounded right up my alley - identity, myth, masks, projected images, multi-media, fantasia - totally down with everything mentioned in the press release... So I go there... and I just couldn't get into it. And I'm pretty sure it was because of the masks.

The dancers came out wearing these gynormous geometric masks, which pretty much looked like cellphone bars or computer chips, gray and industrial, and at first it was sort of interesting in the "Oo what's this statement" sort of way. But then I found myself concentrating more on how the dancers were managing to move with these huge impediments than on the movements themselves.

Each of the tribe's generations had its own shaped mask, and Peter Kyle's choreography was interesting and specific to each, but I had difficulty in appreciating it when what I was looking at was so aesthetically displeasing. What I understood about the basic visual was a stripping of the personal identity of each cast member–they were all in gray unitards, which erased gender, race, etc–and the concept worked well. Unfortunately, I also lost any personal connection to the story–not because I couldn't see their faces, but because their bodies, the vessels of the story, were encumbered by these great artificial physical structures.

The projected images were pretty damn cool though. Reid Farrington's projected videos of both the dancers' performances, as well as iconic flashes of flags, corporate logos, stock tickers, portraits, and pretty much anything else you can think of, brings the show's finale to an impressive, visually pleasing chaos, while at the same time clarifying the journey the tribe took to get there. In this sense, it's an invaluable story-telling tool, not just cool new toy that fit into the budget.

All in all I'd say...if you like that type of modern art that not everyone seems to get–Mondrian, would probably be the best example–this might be the show for you. But, if you prefer something with a discernable face...maybe see what's up at Lincoln Center...

(The Only Tribe plays at 3LD Art & Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street at Rector Street, through December 20th. Show times are Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $30 and $15 for students. For tickets call 212.352.3101 or visit

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