BWW Reviews: BOWIE PROJECT Is a Dance Oddity
It's about time that the music of David Bowie gets a stage treatment, and it's no wonder that the inventive Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre clearly sees the potential to create a unique theatrical experience through Bowie's work. Part concert, part dance show, and part performance art, the world premiere of The Bowie Project, which closed in Austin this weekend, frequently entertains but is occasionally too artistic and highbrow for its own good.
The show-a collaboration between the Austin based Bowie tribute band The Super Creeps, the Austin based Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, and the New York based performance ensemble Strike Anywhere-utilizes an incredibly innovative technique called soundpainting. Soundpainting is a sign language used by musicians, dancers, and performers which allows them to improvise together in real time. At various points during The Bowie Project, one of the performers stands downstage with their back to the audience, and through the use of various hand signs and gestures, they facilitate a visual and auditory jam session.
The idea is definitely rare, and it's plenty of fun to see how it actually works, but the use of soundpainting does have its limits. Because the performers have to concentrate on the composer/conductor in order to create a new experience during every performance, they seem disconnected from the audience. At times it feels like we're the fly on the wall of some artistic experiment meant more for the artists' enjoyment than for ours. There's a certain level of pretentiousness that comes with it, and that seems a bit out of place. This is Bowie, after all. Not Bono.
Thankfully the small problems with the technique of soundpainting do not overpower the strengths of the performers. Whether improvising or choreographed, Steve Ochoa, Andrea Ariel, and Alyson Dolan exhibit incredible technique, follow through, and intensity. It's a privilege to watch them perform, and the countless awards and nominations they've received over the years are well deserved. The Super Creeps are exceptional as well, especially frontman Adam Sultan. Sultan embodies the androgynous style and signature vocals of Bowie without coming off as a carbon copy. He's a confident, enthralling performer in his own right.
Despite a couple of problems, The Bowie Project is an interesting experiment that, while it doesn't entirely pay off, is well worth seeing. If and when it makes a return engagement in Austin, grab tickets. Sound and vision haven't come together this way since, well, Bowie's "Sound and Vision."
Running time: 70 minutes, no intermission
THE BOWIE PROJECT closed in Austin on Sunday, February 2nd. For more information on Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, please visit http://arieldance.org. For more information on The Super Creeps, please visit https://www.facebook.com/supercreepsband. For more information on Strike Anywhere, please visit http://www.strikeanywhere.info