By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
One local, one international. The Cultural Trust’s 2019 Three Rivers Arts Festival welcomes this weekend hometown favorites slowdanger and France’s Compagnie Furinkaï (making their Pittsburgh debut) in two unique dance-centric productions.
A special event in the Dance Council’s new 2019-2020 dance season, Compagnie Furinkaï will present the U.S. premiere of Origami (2015), June 14-16 at Point State Park for five shows.
A mix of dance, aerial work and trapeze-like choreography, Origami is a collaboration between Franco-Japanese dancer/choreographer, Satchie Noro and French designer/builder, Silvain Ohl. Performed in part to recorded music by Fred Costa with vocals by Maia Barouh, Origami is inspired by its namesake Japanese art of paper folding. It features a 40-foot shapeshifting shipping container – a symbol of globalization – that does the folding and unfolding while Noro, like a high-wire circus performer, hangs from and dances on the continuously morphing red shipping container.
Noro says from initial idea to completion, the outdoor production took 3-years to make with Ohl modifying the shipping container and her developing the choreography through improvisation starting in 2011.
As a performer, Noro says she discovered the circus arts by accident but immediately “fell in love with aerial technique and the movement possibilities of being airborne.”
For each 35-minute performance of Origami, Noro, like other high wire artists, will perform without safety harnesses. She credits her long training hours and her childhood ballet training as affording her the precision to perform Origami’s aerial choreography without falter. The potential of falling wasn’t the only obstacle to creating the work she says, “Rehearsing outdoors when the weather was very bad was initially a challenge but I learned to adapt the show to be performed in the rain.”
When she is not hanging in mid-air, Noro also stands atop the container wielding an ax she clangs against the metal structure. “I have this image of Thémis (from Greek mythology) as a symbol of justice with a sword in one hand and a scale in the other,” says Noro. “I don’t think of the ax as weapon but more a tool to find balance and serenity. When the ax makes contact with the container, it is more like an awakening of this iron machinery.”
In a bit of poetic irony, Origami’s specially modified shipping container made its way from Europe by ship like the roughly 11 million other shipping containers that come into the United States each year. “I love this vision of this special container in the middle of the sea with globalized containers,” says Noro.
While Compagnie Furinkaï’s Oragami makes its way to this year’s TRAF from overseas, slowdanger’s memory 6 has its roots in the cosmic realm.
Part of the 5-year old troupe’s memory series begun in 2013 after slowdanger partners Taylor Knight and Anna Thompson say they dreamed essentially the same dream at the same time while living in separate parts of the country. The latest episode in the couple’s exploration and fascination with dreams and memory, the as-yet-to-be-completed memory 6 is danced by the pair to an original soundscape they created and conceptualizes the fusing of two beings into one new being/entity. That imagery will be further enhanced by jewelry costume elements from Pittsburgh’s King Reld.
“The work builds off of past episodes in the series,” says Taylor and Thompson. “We are interested in how our memory after it has been initially experienced, is now something that we create.”
The hour-long show on June 16 will also include the duo in concert as slowdanger the music group performing selections from recent releases can’t go back (2015), body (2017) and oversoul (2018).
Heavily influenced by the music of bands such as FKA twigs and Radiohead, the pair integrates into their atmospheric electronic tunes field recordings and thick layers of vocal production.
Compagnie Furinkaï performs Origami, 9 p.m., Friday, June 14, 5 p.m. & 9 p.m., Saturday, June 15 and 2 p.m. & 7 p.m., Sunday, June 16 at Point State Park. FREE and open to the public. More information at: https://traf.trustarts.org/events/2852
slowdanger performs memory 6 and music from their music catalog, 4 p.m., Sunday, June 16. Point State Park’s Dollar Bank Main Stage. FREE and open to the public. More information at: https://traf.trustarts.org/events/2843