Missing ourselves in others

Philly Fringe 2020: OhOk Performance Group presents ‘Do mirrors burn?’

2 minute read
Riding the currents of isolation: Whitney Casal and Britt Davis in ‘Do mirrors burn?’ (Image courtesy of the artists.)
Riding the currents of isolation: Whitney Casal and Britt Davis in ‘Do mirrors burn?’ (Image courtesy of the artists.)

On reading the performance title Do mirrors burn? in the Philly Fringe’s 2020 lineup, I was instantly curious. I waited for the September 10 premiere from OhOK Performance Group in hopes of finding an answer. Sure, most things burn, but what about everything a mirror implies with its various metaphors and memories?

OhOk Performance Group is Whitney Casal and Britt Davis, two longtime friends and collaborators. COVID-19's sudden demand for isolation and the subsequent deeper reliance on technology forced OhOk to reimagine mirrors. An older version of the work available on Casal's website resembles the final version, but an important element has been lost: now, dancers used to reflecting one another in person are separated. This restriction led to an adapted film version of the performance that debuted at Soundance Festival Berlin 2020 back in June.

The entire film is a single black-and-white shot of a boundless field. A lone dancer pacing out a circle marks a space of isolation in a low-cut, anonymous patch of grass. She finds herself trapped, at the mercy of forces blowing her back from outside. She moves at different paces in the inescapable space, pulled in several directions by the anxiety of quarantine. She learns to live with and physically catch the fluid spins and shapes of the currents of isolation. Her movements imitate bathing in self-care cycles alongside calm dejection at her containment, evocative of social distancing.

When the second dancer joins her partner, the parallels suggest they're in the same space, but they're not. They're searching for one another, always just missing the chance to lock arms and/or legs. They stagger about, spinning, lunging, and grasping for a semblance of regularity. They sit and lie down, held by an alternation of acceptance and depression. The disconnect is very graceful—in a way, a oneness is still there. The mirrored intensity builds, then dissolves with the sound of drums as two friends look for that part of themselves they're missing: each other.

Our relationships reflect familiar and comfortable spaces, like mirrors. Without mirrors, you'll start to forget certain little details of yourself. In 13 minutes, Do mirrors burn? shows what it feels like to miss those connections as we’re forced to stay isolated. Catch the video streaming for free on the Fringe website through October 4, and don't forget to keep in touch with your friends.

Image description: A black-and-white photo of two female dancers in a field, each swinging one leg gracefully upward.

What, When, Where

Do mirrors burn? OhOk Performance Group. Through October 4, 2020, part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Watch it here.

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