BWW Review: COME THROUGH at the Kennedy Center is a Contemporary Triumph
Monday night's production of Bon Iver and TU Dance's Come Through at the Kennedy Center is one of the most quintessentially contemporary performances on record. Filled with emotional dancing, strobing projections, and barely discernible and highly auto-tuned vocals, the night was a celebration of all things modern. On first thought, such a performance seems out of place in the Center's Concert Hall, arguably the most classical space they possess. Surprisingly, the evening works as a solid addition to the Center's programming.
Come Through came about as part of DIRECT CURRENT, the Kennedy Center's two-week celebration of contemporary culture. Kicking off the week, the high-energy performance encapsulates the initiative's focus on new works, bringing Bon Iver together with a dance group for the first time. The Grammy-winning group blended their Signature Sound well with TU Dance, a leading force in contemporary dance helmed by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands. The final result is, for better or worse, unpredictable and provocative throughout the evening.
TU Dance has some impressive company members, all of whom have a chance to showcase their talents throughout the evening. Almost every number cycles through multiple dancers, allowing the team to have their talents ebb and flow while others take over the central line of a dance. Across the board, the group demonstrates skillful partnering and solo works with leaps and lifts coming across as effortless no matter which member performed the action. There were a couple of times during smaller duets or trios where the synchronicity was out of time for a handful of moves. As another testament to their impressiveness, however, the team was regularly able to correct any missteps within a few moments. Their impressiveness compels me to list each of the dancers by name: Kaitlin Bell, Taylor Collier, Jacob Lewis, Alexander Pham, Randall Riley, Amanda Sachs, Alexis Staley, Christian Warner, and Elayna Waxse. Together, they crafted a series of wondrous works on the Concert Hall's stage.
Bon Iver's music was, similarly, consistently good throughout the evening. It wasn't always clear what exactly was being said (I blame excessive auto-tune for this) or what a specific number really meant. Either way, the music fit well into the performance and was never a detriment to the enjoyability of the evening. In fact, when the dancer's left the stage, it didn't feel suddenly like a different performance from Bon Iver. Everything that was sung was designed to help flow into the full performance. For two companies that had never collaborated before, the ability to work together so seamlessly is a notable feat.
Specific numbers from the performance blur together, and the beginning of the program certainly took longer to reach satisfying moments, but once TU Dance hit their stride the evening really picked up. About halfway through their 90-minute performance, a number which I'll refer to as "I Took the Long Way" (since that was the most-repeated lyric in the background) nearly ran away with the whole evening. Nearly every member of the company joined in on this number, which began as a rotating series of duets where one partner was replaced by another dancer until TU Dance had been fully represented.
Almost every aspect of the performance was impressive, but a huge detriment to the evening were the night's technical elements. Throughout the performance, the projected images that played along the white wall backing proved incredibly distracting to the performances in front. With so many people responsible for artistic elements, it's unclear whether Visual Artists Aaron Anderson and Eric Carlson or Lighting Designer Carolyn Wong contributed more to these issues. Not only were the projections distracting but they didn't take into account the large platform on which the band was playing, meaning that some projected words ended up being unreadable thanks to this set element.
Overall, Come Through was a successful collaboration with Bon Iver and TU Dancer, demonstrating some fo the best that each group has to offer. If this is evidence of what the rest of DIRECT CURRENT has to offer, then it is certainly a worthwhile program to explore.
Bon Iver and TU Dance's Come Through played a one-night-only performance on Monday as part of the Kennedy Center's DIRECT CURRENT programming. For more information about DIRECT CURRENT, click here. For additional information about the Kennedy Center's dance programming, click here.
Sam Abney is a Washington, D.C. based arts professional. A native of Arizona, he has happily made D.C. his new home. Sam is a graduate from George Mason University with a degree in Communication and currently works for Arena Stage as a member of their Development team. He is a life-long lover of theater and is excited about sharing his passion with as many people as possible.
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