BWW Review: INSIDER AND OUTSIDER—HEIDI DUCKLER DANCE THEATRE at The Ford Theatres

BWW Review: INSIDER AND OUTSIDER—HEIDI DUCKLER DANCE THEATRE  at The Ford Theatres

The dance show took place in the backstage garage of the Ford Theatres, in Hollywood.

The garage door was half open, or half closed-depends on how you see it. The sun doesn't generate strong light anymore at 5:30pm in Los Angeles, for autumn is here.

The Ford Theatres is located next to the 101 freeway, between the Hollywood Bowl and the Griffith Observatory, at the bottom of a hilly edge, at the center of the Hollywood area. Technically speaking, this is a perfect spot to catch the remaining warmth before the sun sinks to the other side of the hill.

The backstage garage is designated for loading and unloading props, not for any performances, but that's exactly where forty plus audience members watched Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre's show, on October 27, 2018.

The location and time were carefully chosen, corresponding to the natural light. The show began with a young man carrying a 30 feet long empty plastic bag casually walking into the garage, leaving the bright light projecting onto the concrete sloped road and the scenic backdrop of trees and hills behind him.

BWW Review: INSIDER AND OUTSIDER—HEIDI DUCKLER DANCE THEATRE  at The Ford Theatres

He strayed in zigzag, letting the wind blow into the plastic bag and making it look like a long black moving dragon. He walked into the garage and walks through the scattered audience members who sat in five different places, each with unique vantage points, some on pillows and some on chairs. As he wove through the crowd, the streaming bag followed behind, providing a delayed flowing visual of his path -a retrace of his every step. He walked around and came back to the right side and then knelt down to get busy with his own thing: folding and unfolding the 30 feet long plastic bag.

BWW Review: INSIDER AND OUTSIDER—HEIDI DUCKLER DANCE THEATRE  at The Ford Theatres

On the right edge of the room came a young couple, which led us through a depiction of all sorts of life problems: they fall in love, they fight, they are happy, they are crying, and in the end they get back together and go home to watch TV. The only prop used to build up their life was a brand new green dumpster, and when they sat inside the dumpster watching TV, the audience could feel the warmth of home as well.

The fourth dancer was hiding inside the dumpster the entire time that the couple was moving it around, and then it was her turn to reveal her life. She falls in love with the first dancer, who came from outside. The two "couples" delivered a nice impromptu dance. Their techniques, their moves, and their control of their bodies, were all flawless. Everyone wore shoes as well.

BWW Review: INSIDER AND OUTSIDER—HEIDI DUCKLER DANCE THEATRE  at The Ford Theatres

During these interactive dances, time passed by until the sun was fully set. The interior lighting sometimes projected their enlarged shadows onto the wall, creating a good sense of confusion about time. The live music was meditative, and a fusion of Eastern and Western themes. We were able to hear flute, trumpet, keyboard, and sometimes exotic rings.

Time passed til a sudden crisis occurred. The garage door was coming down! One of the perfomers ran to hold it, another ran after to help. And it stopped. They celebrated. A huge red flag with a green decorative piece was carefully and slowly unfolded, displayed, and waved, dancing with the dancers.

BWW Review: INSIDER AND OUTSIDER—HEIDI DUCKLER DANCE THEATRE  at The Ford Theatres

But not long after, the door was closing again, like a wall appearing between the inside and outside. Three insiders ran to hold it but it didn't stop. They escaped to outside of the garage/stage/world. The original outsider struggled to deliver the flag to his friends outside, causing him to miss the best opportunity to roll out. He is only able to give them most of the flag, but the extra piece of green fabric remained in his hand.

The outsider was trapped inside while every insider had escaped. He picked up his black plastic bag again and resumed swinging it and dancing with it, making it look like a dancing dragon once more, before walking away silently as life moved on no matter what.

That is the whole story that this one hour performance delivered.

The dancers' techniques were sophisticated and the choreography emphasized the story telling. I would rather call it a piece of wonderful contemporary art than contemporary dance, as a compliment.

After all, dance as body's movement is a series of reflections of human consciousness and subconsciousness, which is rooted in the social environment. And dance could be about movement itself, or a carrier delivering a unique voice. Dance can make a political statement, or a social standpoint.

"It is quite a sad story," I told the choreographer Heidi Duckler after the show, and she answered: "Yes, it is very sad times to live in, to me."

"I am amazed how you use the natural light as part of the show," I followed.

"The sun goes from right to left, and this piece is designed to happen exactly in the golden hour, the point of the day from the day to the night. So it is both dark physically and psychologically. And the story is about an outsider, how we think of the outsiders, the other," she explained.

Furthermore, she said the reason she asked the dancer to take time unfolding the flag is to deliver the ceremony moment of defining and creating human boundaries and territories. It could be family, state, home, neighborhood, community, or places people live. The flag is a representative of all those territories. The green part of the flag left with the outsider is something that he can use to create his own as the next thing. He won't be left with nothing. He has the experience, memory, and something to build on. Something for himself.

"We have resources. Things can be taken away from us, but certain things can NOT be taken away from us: the ability to love, the ability to imagine, the ability to build."

During the last 33 years, Heidi Duckler has become famous for developing contemporary dance shows at unusual sites in unexpected places, including a museum, library, public park, garage building, sculpture, parking lot, water fountain, hospital, commercial shop, aquarium, gas station, etc. Anything but a typical theater stage.

Her next destination is a hospital campus in South L.A. She will spend two years creating at and around Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, and the campus of the three-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in unincorporated Willowbrook, Los Angeles County. With an early year announced $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Duckler's company aims to create a more cohesive community.

I give great applause to this kind of art. The art connects community, the art helps form people's understanding of contemporary culture. Art doesn't just come from imagination, but from life. It is people like us that paint the picture of lives and shape the reflection in art. Although people can be influenced by the environment, people also create the environment.

"Everything should always be conceptual", Heidi Duckler concluded.

photo credit: The Ford Theatres and Qianqian Xing

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From This Author Qianqian Xing

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