Jessica Lang Dance and Steven Holl

Tesseracts of Time

Jessica Lang Dance and  Steven Holl  Tesseracts of Time

source: stevenholl
Tesseracts of Time is a collaboration between architect Steven Holl and choreographer Jessica Lang that premiered November 6th, 2015 at The Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago. Learn more about Jessica Lang Dance.

Both Architecture and dance share a passion for space and light in time, however they are on opposite ends of the spectrum with respect to time. Architecture is one of the arts of longest duration, while the realization of a dance piece can be a quick process and the work disappears as the performance of it unfolds. Here the two merge. Corresponding to the four seasons, but within a twenty minute period, the collaboration between choreographer Jessica Lang and architect Steven Holl merges dance and architecture in a compression of time and space.

The first section ‘UNDER’ begins with a slow movement of sunlight coming from above, sweeping across the curved interior spaces of the architecture. The dance physically vibrates in the dark shadows of the stage. Dancers are dressed in black geometric and angular costumes. Their movement is grounded and driven with linear thought to the percussive score Anvil Chorus by David Lang.

For the second section ‘IN’, compressed spatial sequences filled in deep light are projected in film. The dance movement defies gravity and explores geometry with emotional expression. Space and body in black and white work in synchrony with the minimalist piano music Patterns in a Chromatic Field by Morton Feldman.

The third section ‘ON’ -all in white- reveals on stage three twelve-foot-tall Tesseract Fragments. In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of a cube. In dance, the movement explores space now present in the 3rd dimension of the stage. The music is percussive, prepared piano The Perilous Night by John Cage.

The fourth section ‘OVER’, begins with the tension of sound and energy as the Tesseracts rise upwards to the music Metastaseis by Iannis Xenakis. Unlike the previous sections, bursting color floods the stage with dancers in asymmetrical colors of oranges and reds. Arvo Pärt’s Solfeggio takes shape in a synthesis of chromatic forms as the dance releases like a sunrise into intensely lyrical and hypnotic meditative phrases.

Like Seasons, the ending returns to the darkness of ‘UNDER’ at the beginning. No beginning No ending.

The whole piece takes a year—four seasons—but is compressed into twenty minutes. As there are 525,600 minutes in one year, this compression ratio would render an average human life as four years.
source: chicagotribune
Architecture and design work hand in glove, right? For laypeople, architecture might reside in a glossy magazine cover or a building glimpsed from the street. But another way to think about it is from the perspective of someone living or working in it.

And that’s the perspective choreographer Jessica Lang takes in her astonishing world premiere, “Tesseracts of Time.” Created in collaboration with architect Steven Holl, it was performed Friday only at the Harris Theater, on a program with three other Lang dances presented in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Divided into four sections representing Holl’s sense of buildings’ relationships to the ground — they can be under, in, on or over it — “Tesseracts” takes nine dancers (and its viewers) into that lived experience.

Lang’s combined talents make the experience vivid. Though she founded New York-based Jessica Lang Dance only in 2011, this well-traveled choreographer has made more than 85 dances since 1999.

At the Harris, her gift for design — for a photographer’s sense of light and shadow, texture and composition and dimension — was obvious throughout, aided by Nicole Pearce’s powerful but never overpowering lighting. Crisp, evocative shapes, often caught and held in stillness by her superb dancers, define Lang’s choreography, nailing images. Lavishly charged music gives these crystalline moments emotional color.

I’m still not sure what tesseracts are — though I’ve read that it’s the geometric concept of a four-dimensional cube. But Holl’s set pieces, evidently guided by the concept, are gorgeous whether present in a still photo, a video, on the stage or floating above it. The particularly breathtaking “in the ground” section, which through green-screen magic takes us on a wild ride messing with our sense of size and proportion, creates a wonderful gestalt between reality and illusion.

Seemingly a telescoped model of the architectural process, “Tesseracts” essentially ascends from underground to the sky but finally suggests the dancers are back where they started. First rolling around in a murky miasma beneath massive curved beams, they later explore a dreamily complex new home, scurry in and around what seem tents and finally contemplate structures so airy and luminescent they’re like clouds. Five musical selections proceed from percussion (David Lang’s “The Anvil Chorus” suggests miners) to piano to the ethereal voice.

But a preview of a 2016 work virtually stripped of design, “Thousand Yard Stare,” showed that Lang has got the goods even without the gewgaws. The title expression is a vivid descriptor for battle-worn soldiers’ mental state, derived from a 1945 Life magazine story. And this piece for nine, based on Lang’s talks with soldiers and research on post-traumatic stress disorder, creates an all-too-vivid underworld of loss, of camaraderie and isolation, and of the mind that’s trapped there. Pearce’s impeccable lighting once again picks out the essential.

The program’s earlier Lang works seemed chosen to expand on its architectural theme. In “The Calling,” a solo excerpted from “Splendid Isolation II” (2006), Randy Castillo wore a voluminous, beautifully draped and sculpted white skirt, spread wide around him like a pedestal from which his upper body emerged, taut and alive, reaching out of stasis.

The backdrop for the duet “Droplet,” excerpted from Lang’s 2011 “i.n.k.,” is a very, very slow-motion black-and-white video of a drop of water falling. Dancers Kana Kimura and Clifton Brown gave this exploration of physics an utter beauty, humanizing the clinging, the attraction and eventual inevitable separation, of molecules.
Laura Molzahn.