BY MELANI DE GUZMAN
In May I had the opportunity to witness one of the most riveting shows that allowed me to crawl back into the depths of my own artistic desires. I came out of Bobbi Jene Smith’s new multidisciplinary work LOST MOUNTAIN broken on the inside, and something cracked open. Is this what dance can look and feel like?
Having seen her works set on other companies as well as her critically acclaimed A Study on Effort in collaboration with violinist/ writer Keir GoGwilt. I am always impressed by Smith’s research as she continues to forge a pivotal way as a female choreographer through dance and film. She does a unique execution of drawing her collaborators’ voices to enrich the curiosity and depth of her work.
Lost Mountain premiered at LaMaMa Experimental Theatre for three days in May 2019. The piece is drawn outward, as Smith focuses on geology and the collisions between mountain peaks. Rather than compromising human connection, the pieces operates as a metaphor, “asking questions of what is lost, what is it to be lost, what is the search, what is the aim,” as Smith explained. What I didn’t see coming was the power of all twelve artists from across performance disciplines of music, acting, tap, singing, and movement. The collaborators worked together effectively and impactfully, making dialogues of rhythm, gesture, and song to create an abstract and emotionally visceral narrative. It was phenomenal and so satisfying to say the least. You didn’t have to know the language of dance to understand. A movement language accessible to all.
As an audience member with a performative background, I found myself heavily invested in the twelve artists at various times of the show. Each character grew on me as they appeared to represent all chapters of life. Asaf Avidan singer-songwriter opens the show on piano with a marvelous voice, setting the tone of a dark melancholic evening in the rustic setting of a living room. Each artist introduced so eloquently made it impossible for audience members to decide on just one to watch. You could see the energetic shift as a character entered and exited the space, especially their subtle effects on one another. There was empathy, restlessness, and a selfishness that would unfold as their journey together deepened while in one room for an extended period of time.
The storyline, extremely compelling because it embodied the dysfunctionality that all relationships endure. There was a celebration of death, loss, laughter, joy, love, and the openness of possibly being okay with the brokenness of life. The acting and the development of the roles by each artist depicted how time plays out through slower seasons. There is never a balance of perfect energy, but everyone came together through the tidal waves of their own darkness. Every role offered a unique life experiences in the overwhelming journey of life, executed through powerful movement choices.
Lighting designer, John Torres took us on a climactic journey with a vivid cinematic experience with a hint of a Wes Anderson effect. The lighting transitions helped convey Smith’s intentions poignantly. These designs assisted in highlighting the movement impulses of each performer, driving their chaos in the direction where there’s nothing left but to go within. Simultaneously highlighting the live performances by not only the movement artists but the life musicians performing alongside. From lighting, live scoring, movement, and acting, there was a constant shift occurring onstage.
LOST MOUNTAIN left me determined, committed and inspired, with an outstanding voice and talent for showing audience members the power of multidisciplinary dance theatre. Smith offers artists in New York City the hope to continue expressing genuine truths onstage and off.
Melani De Guzman is an LA native freelance dance artist, choreographer, teacher, and pilates therapist. She has presented works in Israel, Chicago, Minnesota, Los Angeles, and New York. She is currently dancing for Curet Performance Project and on commercial sets for Jack Tracy’s upcoming visual music album. Past film credits include; Kuperman Brothers, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, and Gigi Torres. She is a multidimensional artist whose working towards community and personal elevation.