Dance Heginbotham and Brooklyn Rider
Featuring Shara Worden and Gabriel Kahane
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
Doris Duke Theatre
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 – Sunday, August 3, 2014
Review by Seth Rogovoy
(BECKET, Mass., July 31, 2014) – There was a lot going on – a lot to see, a lot to hear, a lot to process all at once – onstage at the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow last night, where “Chalk and Soot” by Dance Heginbotham and Brooklyn Rider, featuring Shara Worden and Gabriel Kahane, had its world premiere performance. With five dancers from Dance Heginbotham; a libretto based on poetry by the artist Wassily Kandinsky and sung on and offstage by Worden; a new live score by composer Colin Jacobsen, who also performed on violin as a member of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and who were also drafted into movement (as was Worden); with everyone fully costumed and lit; and with the whole thing staged by John Heginbotham, the overall effect was one of a contemporary chamber opera, and a dizzying and delightful one at that.
None of these elements or personnel were wasted, either. Heginbotham wasn’t just going to have the musicians sitting over in a corner in a circle in tuxes and tails out of the action. For the first act, they were spread out in a large semicircle with their backs to the audiences. After intermission, they were tucked in close up- and center-stage, forming a kind of band behind Worden, who we only heard but did not see in the first half.
But Worden, who if anyone did nearly stole the show, wasn’t just going to stand and sing. Hers was a spectral presence, almost not-human, given an impossibly angled shaped thanks to Maile Okamura’s costume, and given her own stunning mien – she was as much an actor as she was a singer.
I don’t want to give too much away, because part of the delight of the show is to sit back and enjoy the flow of images and ideas, new arrangements and interactions. Heginbotham’s dancers were lithe for the most part, themselves characters as much as bodies that move, and they could be variously players in a summer pageant or animated cartoon characters.
Unifying it all of course was Jacobsen’s score, at times abstract and astringent, other times pulsing and percussive. That it all came together in this work called “Chalk and Soot,” performed on the intimate Doris Duke stage, is a tribute to the Pillow, which co-commissioned the work; to the creators and artists who refuse to color within the lines; and by audiences who hunger for sights and sounds that are new and fresh, that entertain while not merely entertaining, and that at times can puzzle and even infuriate.