As we enter the inviting white-walled dance studio Philly PACK, we’re greeted with a choice of beverage: a vodka-laced yellow Joni, or a rum-drink red Mitchell (beer and non-alcoholic drinks were also available). Soon local performer Sweetbriar Rose appears on the raised stage to play a few songs by Joni Mitchell before a performance named after one of the Canadian folk singer’s songs.
That truly interdisciplinary collaboration between two sisters, choreographer Jessica Noel and visual artist Natalie Fletcher, proved surprisingly moving. Noel dances to music from Mitchell’s 1977 album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. Her confident, genuine smile shows through the full-body paint by her sister, a body painter who won the first season of TV show Body Wars. She’s accompanied by 11-year-old Lily Blaine-Sussman, whose own nervousness and desire to perform correctly likewise comes through as they perform moves of trust and sisterly care. Meanwhile, Natalie climbs on a stepladder to paint words on the back wall, occasionally stopping to fill in the paint square of the dancers’ matching Mondrian-like body paint. When she joins the dancer in the final steps, all three on top of chairs, we feel her anxiety. These are three humans, communicating humanity, sisterhood, love, and family.
Like a Joni Mitchell song, PAPRIKA PLAINS is intimate, artful, and affecting.
[Philly PACK, 233 Federal Street] September 21-22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/paprika-plains