I wasn’t planning on writing about SHUTTLEFISH. Who wants to publicly review their friends first time attempt of something? But I like writing about things that stay with me and expand in my belly. After SHUTTLEFISH’s premiere last weekend at Yoga Movement Sanctuary (YMS) in Brewerytown, I kept needing to articulate the experience to my friends, encouraging them to attend. SHUTTLEFISHwas there, expanding. SHUTTLEFISH runs again this weekend May 12-14 at 8:30 pm.
For this “dance theater fugue,” as she calls it, Steinmetz has gathered an ensemble of fellow Pig Iron alums Johanna Kasimow, Sarah Knittel, Lillian Ransijn, Alexandra Tatarsky, and Andalyn Young. It feels like these humans enjoy being in the same room together, and are trying to move an emotion forward, which has never been my experience at Pig Iron Student Showings, with their rats-in-a-cage vibe.
If SHUTTLEFISH were at a party, it would be swaying foot to foot near the snacks, a quiet nervous vortex, waiting for you to come over. And when you get there, a low hum of agitation powers really good conversation, which crests and swells, and you’re blurting out the same thing at the same time, but also finding you disagree too. You hug before you part ways. A real hug. A good one.
The yoga studio turned venue* is a long cave space, one of those row houses that feels like a ships’ galley. Looking at us askew are several species of the genus Ikea Lamp, their lampshades tilted, dogs trying to understand. In this way, lighting designer Biko Koenig creates a Dutch angle that all the mythological metaphors of boats and rivers have to pass through. Performers move the house lamps as needed. We watch their fingers seek the on/off moment. Is it on this side? Is this one a switch or a pull? There’s a lost familiarity in the action. Something habitual has been replaced, causing a stutter in the day to day pattern.
There is a string trio too, seated perpendicular to us, so we watch them in profile. They insert excerpts from Bach and Purcell. Their playing is bracketed by the reach-and-click to the swan shaped lights on their music stands. The effect is a sonic quote bubble around the music. The music is warm and generous. Closest to us is cellist Emily Pratt, who sits in profile with her french twist and cello. It’s hard for me to describe Pratt as ‘cellist because I know her as the PA Ballet’s incomparable company manager, and my yoga student. I’ve never seen her play before. She’s good. Solid. But she’s not amazing. These musicians watch the play too, or cast their eyes down, meditatively. They have moments of conversation about what they’re playing. They’re not musicians performing. They’re people. Playing music. This isn’t a finish line.
In a storm blue raincoat sits Andalyn Young. Performing one single task. Spoiler. SHUTTLEFISH reminds me to be grateful for the unremarkable.
SHUTTLEFISH is, from the program notes, about death, and the vacuum it creates. It feels like when I’ve rowed out to the middle of a lake alone on a cloudy-still day and suddenly I realize I’m in the middle of the lake. The horizon is reflected upside down in the still water and it’s like “Oh man panic and sublime are reflections of each other,” And I pray/will myself to move the oar, to break the water’s surface, to start rowing again. And as I do the lake is there below me, holding up me and the boat, and a little rain starts to come down.
[The Yoga and Movement Sanctuary, 2623 W Girard Avenue] May 5-14, 2017; facebook.com/events/1155109377944500/
* Haha I work there.