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May. 21, 2012
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Disorientation was the theme of the GERALDCASELDANCE program at UWM's Fine Arts Chamber Theatre last weekend as visiting professor Gerald Casel showcased a premiere, Dwelling, and his 2005 work, Squared Away, creating a random precision through thought-provoking discomfort.

Drawing upon his own recent experiences as a stranger in a stranger land (Germany), Casel sought to provoke the audience using a mix of spoken narration (live and voiceover), discordant sounds and vocals (growling, percussive beats, scratching) and “music” that changed every night (at Saturday night's performance, more pre-taped vocals were used amid the predetermined cacophony of sound and movement).

Casel's intentions had unintended results. Amid the hour-long program for the two pieces (no intermission), it took a while for the audience to catch on, if they did at all.  The first seven minutes of Squared Away featured two people defining the floor space and the seating section laying down a dark blue tape while others constructed—and then deconstructed—a tent using two ladders and a sheet amid the outdoor sounds of night (chirping, scratching).

Once the actual dance movement began, Casel along with Kelly Anderson and Steven Michael LaFond displayed a sense of quiet strength, juxtaposing fluid movement against harsh, aggressive (and spontaneous) jumps and rolls.  The attempt to find order and flow within the 20-minute opener was further challenged by the repetitious voiceover of “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.”  Confusing? That's the point.

With the 40-minute Dwelling, Casel, along with Anderson and Christina Briggs-Winslow, Steven Moses and Bridgett Tegen, used predetermined moves within the space to improvise and return back to the main structure, riffing on a move if it worked  in the moment of the movement (think: bebop jazz artists improvising on a main melody).

When Casel pulled the backstage curtain to reveal a simple one-dimensional line drawing of a house, it was imminently clear that “there's no place like home.” Certainly home as we know it—familiar, comforting, certain.

With Casel and company's work, expect the unexpected for dancers and audience alike.


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