“Lines in the Sand, TBD” by The Lovelies – brings to light the thrilling bravery of chance dance

“Lines in the Sand, TBD” by The Lovelies. Photo by Andy Ribner

“There’s something about sticky situations…sticking to you and sticking to me..” said one of The Lovelies dancers as she balanced her body on the small of her duet partner’s back during the build up of an unbounded and flavorful hour of “Lines in the Sand, TBD.” These words, along with other powerful spoken phrases interwoven into The Lovelies staging made this a show that is unquestionably one that sticks in your mind.

Saturday, January 26th of 2019 was the closing performance of Triskelion Arts’ Never Before, Never Again, a festival housing a series of events and performances showcasing improvisational artists in the Brooklyn, NY dance scene. The Lovelies comprised of the first half of the final production to wrap up this three-week improvisational festival.

Some are hesitant to buy tickets to see a work that is improvisational as it doesn’t always have the same respect as some other forms of modern dance, however, as apparent in the quality of their performance, The Lovelies rehearse this skill rigorously in the studio. As it is not something to be considered “easy” or without use of rehearsal space and hours of practice. The moral of improvisational work is to live in the present moment, allowing things to feel as real as possible between both the performers and the audience, and this was a success from The Lovelies.

As improvisation is normally a term associated with theatre or rather the process of choreography as opposed to the product, The Lovelies bring to light the thrilling bravery of chance dance, representing that it is a major part of modern dance today. As one of the highest forms of risk-taking in performance art, this company has mastered the fluidity of making anything that happens on stage have purpose in the moment while constantly remaining in an exploratory state with the use of various elements.

Pushing the boundaries of modern dance performance, The Lovelies, a small but mighty compositional improvisation company based in Brooklyn is a group of artists who move seamlessly from one idea to the next. It is surprising to know that there are no predetermined ideas or structures before they step in front of an audience after witnessing this unfold. Partnered with the contrasting collaboration of two musicians; an electric guitarist and cellist, the ability of this company to develop an idea in the moment and to play off of one another’s motifs in complimenting and juxtaposed ways was rather impressive, and certainly captivating.

What was most enjoyable about the style of their performance was the humour and on-stage chemistry between the dancers and the subtle relationship with the live music. While showing explosive, athletic, and elaborate movement, there was also dialogue, singing, and spoken word. At the beginning of the performance, the dancers seemed to be inspired by the music and were following it in some way. Somehow mid-performance, the music began to follow the dancers. This ebbed and flowed throughout the dance in a subtle way as the dancers used words, contact improvisation, stillness, duets, and solo moments to develop their piece.

As the powerful dancers made use of the entire stage space (even the stage curtain) they constantly discovered and developed new motifs in progression. Creating a rich and dynamic background adding to the angst, the musicians improvised as well, while being visible to the audience as a crucial piece to the paragon. The Lovelies were never a slave to the music and often danced independently from it, as it served as both a framework and inspiration, but never an orchestration.

The show was culminated with The Lovelies standing in a powerful diagonal downstage, audibly suggesting to each other what movements their great finale could be remembered by. Even though the strong and technically trained dancers were more than capable of the grand dance moves they were teasing the audience with, the stage suddenly went black without these movements ever coming to life. No death drops or flips took place at the end, yet this finale was memorable in a way that gave meaning beyond movement. This moment allowed the audience to be intimately aware of the humbleness of a performer, letting the audience connect with a dancer’s perspective on dance itself. It inspires the question; what really defines a good dance? The Lovelies evince that it goes well beyond typical steps.

I was able to speak with company member, Joanna Futral to explain more about the nature and process of their work.

Why does your company choose to focus on improvisation? “The beauty of the work is that no two pieces are ever the same. The Lovelies practice a technique called Compositional Improvisation. It works to heighten awareness and use all aspects of space & time to recognize form as it emerges and make a piece as an ensemble. No structure or otherwise previously agreed-upon content is determined in advance except usually the duration of the work and in this case, 30 minutes. We are literally making decisions in the moment, composing and building a dance together.”

What do you hope an audience experiences while seeing your performances? “Our hope is that an audience member will walk away having seen something in a different light. Constant discovery. Paying Attention. Play. Rigor. Risk taking. Limitless creativity. Mindful negotiation. These are values that The Lovelies share. The piece on Saturday felt real. Like the insides of the workings of the Lovelies were exposed in a bold and honest way.”

What is the boldest or most outrageous thing you’ve done on stage to surprise an audience? “The Lovelies try to take new risks for each performance. I can’t think of anything outrageous we’ve done, as we try our best to follow the material where it takes us and build something together.”

Reviewed on January 26th at Triskelion Arts