Dancing in the Debris Field

The aftermath of the apocalypse when it reaches Buffalo

The wreckage is everywhere. The walls of the house are torn in half; the roof is gone. In the distance, a trailer burns. A car, like both its driver and the body on its hood, is lifeless. This is the aftermath of more than a mere twister or plane crash. It is as if instead of Belgrade or Baghdad, the bombs had fallen in Buffalo.

A lone woman, Michelle Boulé, blindfolded and bound, emerges from the devastation, throbbing with life, seeking purpose, a reason for being. She has little more than a mattress and the wind from a fan to make her feel alive; she is a hostage to failure, to memory in the prison of the destroyed room she cannot leave, and to a tall, primitive watchtower from which all can be surveyed.

A being––man/woman as one, Miguel Gutierrez and Anna Azrieli joined at the torso and arms by a simple hoodie–– emerges from the rubble, moving tentatively, a mutant taking its first steps. It creates a purpose and makes its way to the shelter of a phone booth. The dead bodies in and on the destroyed car––Abby Crain & Tarek Halaby––begin to stir, their ghosts at first lost, then angry and wild. They twist and turn their way out of long sleeved rugby shirts, like reptiles shedding a layer of skin or moths ripping out of their cocoons, advancing to the next stage in life. Halaby leaps wildly from side to side, barely keeping his balance, pushing the limits of abandon in a theme that repeats and accumulates toward the ending.

The man-woman being, now face-to-face with itself, thrashes, kicking and rolling until it splits, but the two cannot stay apart. For every shove against the wall, there is an ensuing approach. The newly separated couple reunites for a double duet with the car couple––a dance of push me-pull you dynamics, a jabbing, staccato progression of co-dependence, before the entire ensemble explodes in and out of the diagonal paths of the limited available performance area.

This is the dark and stirring vision of choreographer Miguel Gutierrez and his Powerful People, set within the debris field that is Christoph Draeger‘s incredible, post-apocalyptic set. The live accompaniment by Pee in My Face with Surgery––Jaime Fennelly and Fritz Welch, with boy scout hair by Dave Hickey––was insane with laughter and as disturbing to watch as it was to listen to. A simple stage crossing with a body-sized bunch of large metal cans is as memorable for its physicality as for its one-of-a-kind sound.

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