Karen Peterson and Dancers
Excello Dance Space

8700B SW 129th Terrace
Miami, FL 33176-5904

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AUDIENCE RESPONSE OF SCRUTINY

The Dance: 
I say yes yes yes to your artistic equivalencies, especially Hugo's Les Miserables and Rodin's Burghers of Calais. I hadn't thought about either piece but your observation (it takes a nerd) is spot on. When the dancers reluctantly moved offstage to the right, there is a resignation in their movements that definitely references the burghers as they march in surrender to save Calais. Even now the referencing adds an even richer appreciation of the work. 

The mound-like clumping of tired, discarded bodies screams heaps of garbage to me. Some might call them the leftovers. Very effective staging. The grey raggedness of the dancers and its haunting parallel to Les Miserables is indisputable and it's this very vision of desolation that sets the tone for the entire performance. 

Despite the comments I heard as we left the theater, the Holocaust never crossed my mind. I didn't make that connection. Maybe it was the dirt on the floor and the dark staging. In fact, I didn't connect with any specific event - even the Holocaust - but rather the larger reality of unending dislocation & genocide in all of human history. 

There are many powerful moments for me, Maria, such as the lascivious objectification of the "female," daughter, mother, lover, fighter, victim. The three male predators close in on her, insistent, groping the "she," and although none ever touch her breasts or genitalia, this pantomime of aggression is clearly a gang rape on every level, suggesting the larger globalization of rape in human trafficking. In a later scene, the victim becomes the aggressor and the "male" is attacked by several females. This spectacle of women as predators never rises to the level of sexual violence signified so clearly in the earlier attack on the "female." As a woman, I am by nature more sensitive to the physical vulnerabilities of all women so perhaps my perspective might be a bit compromised. Someone suggested how different it would have been to have had the "male" attacked by other males. It's an interesting thought.

Then there was the dance of the small red-headed woman in a wheel chair and her lover as he lifts and carries her in an achingly tender love dance. It was the only time I spoke as I leaned over to my friend and whispered "Lovely." 

Finally, the last scene: the lamentation. A father - or is he a lover? - leans over the lifeless body of his child - or is it his lover? His voice is raspy and powerful. He sings, his "canto hondo" and reveals the depth of his despair. In the end, child or lover doesn't matter. This is the dance's final meditation on love and loss. It was a magnificent finale. 

The Video:
And then there's the video. At times, I perceived a different tone in the video, more personal, less dystopian, and may I add, more hopeful. 

I don't think the dance could have been successful without it. Excellent lighting notwithstanding, more light from somewhere else is needed to offset the darker landscape onstage. The video projection did just that. An example of the use of daylight is the Banyon tree segment with the dancers moving in and out light and the thick trunks and woody roots. The film work personalized the dancers and oftentimes offered different perspectives from what was occurring in the dance. The intersection of stage and screen offers new and deeper layers of understanding. 

The feet segment is brilliant as is the decision to use it during the heart wrenching finale. After all - and forgive the redundancy - the overarching narrative in Scrutiny is about walking. It is about movement, about refugees walking away, running, climbing, searching, escaping. It is the story performed by those who can walk and those who cannot. They remind us of what drives millions of people everyday to leave their homes and unspeakable violence in an endless journey to safety. It is a story about feet. As one dancer said, I love to walk because I can't.

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