AFTER YEARS OF DANCE WATCHING AT THE FRINGE, and writing reviews that aim to encourage the so-so and almost-there, it's a joy to discover a fully formed performance that, even in its youthful vigor, engages the intellect and resonates with the heart and spirit. The Attic Room, by the Chicago-based RE/Dance Group, is that piece. Mysterious, even haunting, the piece -- "a 45-minute dance theatre work in 26 segments" to be exact -- is an interspecies exploration of memory that lightly, but evocatively, illuminates something very human.
The six performers, wearing feathered and beaked owl masks, occupy what appears to be a sort of nostalgia shop, like a flock of pilgrims engaged in the pursuit of knowledge... perhaps even wisdom (as the masks seemingly signify). What are they seeking? A map frequently appears, as do small lamps, leather-bound books and tiny white origami birds flown into flight by a fan. In the hands of our creatures, these objects transmutate with graceful simplicity: The books turn into steppingstones, boat oars, and a turtle carapace; the rolled-up map becomes a spotting scope.
The performers move in unison, as if of one mind, migrating from one vignette to the next in search of some always-elusive place. When they begin to pair off, or set against one another with increasingly aggressive posturing, the others look on with genuine curiosity -- as if observing their species in the midst of an evolutionary moment.
There are stories of memory loss, of becoming lost at sea and sinking in a small boat. Anger and affection are both leavened with Streisand show tune. The heroine, in her salmon-colored dress, squeals with delight when tossed aloft; a couple fends off their pursuers by deftly rolling up in a rug. Tableaux created with the simplest of gestures assemble and disassemble, as the choreography shifts, circles, and courses with poetic intention.
What does it all mean? It means that RE|Dance, directed by dancers Lucy Riner and Michael Estanich, is an emotionally intelligent, creatively savvy dance company to watch.
Related performance details:
The Attic Room by RE|Dance is on stage at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. Shows are Saturday, 8/6 at 10 pm; Sunday, 8/7 at 2:30 pm; Wednesday, 8/10 at 5:30 pm, and Saturday, 8/13 at 8:30 pm.
Check back regularly throughout the Fringe Festival for more short reviews on mnartists.org, sent in from our intrepid performance critics on the scene.
About the author: Camille LeFevre is an arts journalist who writes frequently about visual art and architectures.