Anna Kroll’s This Time and George MacLeod’s On Short Notice shared a double bill combining dance and performance art for the SoLow Fest. Exploring the possibilities and limitations of the present moment, the evening began with This Time.
Kroll described the piece as “a solo for present me, past me, and everyone in the room.” That collaborative spirit continued with On Short Notice, which MacLeod performed with Mikah Baumrin-Daniels and Shana Crawford. The piece aimed to break away from established patterns and routines.
Be here now?
As the audience arrived and took their seats, Kroll stood in the Da Vinci Art Alliance gallery, hidden beneath a sheet. Only her socks, shoes, and some of her pants were visible. Uncertain, people in the audience giggled. “Nothing will happen,” Kroll intoned when the performance began. But this was not true: something already had.
Kroll’s stillness and silence formed a question mark, one her performance began to address, raising more questions in the process. She asked in the program notes, “Can we really be here now? Can we really be there then?” This Time suggested that time, space, and presence may be less fixed than we think.
The piece consisted of a monologue performed under the sheet, beneath which Kroll held a microphone connected to speakers. First, she welcomed the audience and thanked us for coming. Then came an implied conversation with the people watching. “Mmhmm… Great… Yes… Me, too,” Kroll said following pauses that seemed to respond to the unheard other half of a dialogue.
This Time then became a guided meditation, during which Kroll invited the audience to feel our bodies and become aware of the space. However, the instructions quickly became bizarre. Kroll asked us to imagine alfalfa growing out of our scalps, our skin crisp, our bones made of Styrofoam.
As I listened, I could not tell whether Kroll’s voice was live or recorded. Later in the performance, she argued with and talked over a recording of herself. This created a particularly interesting moment in This Time that confronted viewers with the reality that our past and present selves coexist.
The construct continued when Kroll removed the sheet and concluded her performance with a conversation she performed with a person in the audience. Handing over a typed script, she said, “I’ll be me and you be me.” Together, they reflected different parts of one person’s consciousness, experience, and identity at different moments in time.
"What is dance?"
MacLeod’s On Short Notice continued the theme of presence and possibility. He moved slowly in the center of the gallery, flanked by Baumrin-Daniels and Crawford, who initially seemed unaware of him as they studied the art on the walls. The dance contained moments of innovation and humor, as when two dancers dropped to the floor and seemed to become insects while the third held a cup to her mouth to make buzzing noises.
On Short Notice also raised questions such as “What is dance?” and “How do we know?”
The piece — a series of vignettes that blended together but appeared discrete — included movements both recognizable and unrecognizable as dance, such as when the trio linked arms or melted their bodies down to the floor.
Use of sound reinforced the dance’s sense of questioning and its blending of familiar with unfamiliar. Some of On Short Notice was performed to music. Other parts were silent or performed to sounds made by the dancers. I found myself most enjoying the more traditional parts, perhaps because I knew how to appreciate dancers moving in harmony and arm flourishes synchronized with music.
It ended with the performers slowly dancing out of the space and waving goodbye. “That’s it!” one of them called.
On Short Notice was a fitting companion to This Time, with both pieces exploring collaboration and uncertainty while recognizing the humor that can arise when undertaking serious inquiry. Perhaps because of their seeking nature, both felt like works in progress: ambitious, imaginative, and full of questions but offering few answers.
What, When, Where
This Time. By Anna Kroll. On Short Notice. By George MacLeod. SoLow Fest. June 22, 2018, at the Da Vinci Art Alliance, 704 Catherine Street, Philadelphia. Solowfest.com.