Travel the Spaceways

kyle marshall choreography, stellar @ baryshnikov arts center’s playbac, 7 june 2021.

We are on as spaceship. It is also a space ship. It is also a shape ship. It is black as space, a wondrous zone of movement not so much celestial as intergalactic, beyond the heavens, out there, in the silent vacuum, where life began and to which, like black stars, we shall all return. There is something oddly grounding in the performance. Terrestrial is extra-terrestrial. Humanity is astronomical.

We humans have always glimpsed the stars afar to see ourselves up close, to get outside in order to get inside, to go to the edge of the universe only to discover that it was right here in our moving limbs all along. This is what Kyle Marshall and his collaborators—dancers Bree Breeden and Ariana Speight, sound designer Kwami Winfield, costume designer Malcolm-x Betts, lighting designer Amanda K. Ringger, makeup artist Edo Tastic, and film director Tatyana Tenebaum seem to be up to in STELLAR. Traveling the spaceways means always trying to come home. An odyssey is a circuitous route. It circles back. Indeed, in STELLAR, the circle establishes the line that loops back on itself, resolving where it starts again. Motion and emotion transmit ideas of order and freedom like radio waves emanating from finger tips, reaching the edge of touch, where the atmosphere meets the galaxy, and beyond it, so far far away that it comes right back down to the molten core in which our beings are forged, our entities are realized.

Marshall’s choreography travels the spaceways, a bit in the spirit of Sun Ra, in order to circumvent, to punch through to hypermode. Something has come unmoored, yet all is calm, steady. There is a kind of tensile force at work even in this dreamy gravity-less zone of the filmed dance.

Life itself gets coiled up in the movement, preserved, intensified. A kind of freedom emerges in this quietly intense, meditative performance. We get lost in space to find ourselves, we leave earthly problems behind yet out there, beyond the atmosphere, you don’t just float away. Instead, a kind of epic gyrational orientation surfaces with magnetizing implications. We watch people navigate, try out new moves in new spaces. They experiment. They dock. They connect. They depart. They clap for each other. They are close by at times. They journey light years apart. They are in touch, intimate, yet scalar, distant, at a magnitude. They gain mass, they seem to almost slow down as they speed up.

In Kyle Marshall’s “dance of speculative fiction,” the black marks on the costumes of Bree Breeden, Ariana Speight, and Marshall himself almost look like anarchy symbols. People spin on their own axes, pulled back to where they came from, finding each other circulating, achieving lift-off, loosening and tightening up, shedding weight and finding it again in the weightlessness, searching and finding and searching again, liberated in the infinitesimal, located in the vastness that become, for moments, no longer opposites.

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