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BWW Review: IN THE MOMENT: A DRAWING DANCE at The Kennedy Center's Digital Stage


This world premiere Kennedy Center co-commission with Ephrat Asherie Dance and Mo Willems streams through June 27.

BWW Review: IN THE MOMENT: A DRAWING DANCE at The Kennedy Center's Digital Stage

The Latin root of the word "animation" signifies the bestowal of life. In English, animation meant "liveliness" before it meant moving images.

A charming new film for children is animated in all three ways. In the MOment: A Drawing Dance, which premiered yesterday on The Kennedy Center's Digital Stage, takes its multiple meanings a step further because it will surely draw its intended audience of 4-and-ups into its delightfully sleek, bouncy, playful universe of human movement and green-screen optics.

Hey, grownups: Don't plan on catching up on bill-paying while the young 'uns are watching, because this 25-minute kids' show, directed and choreographed by Ephrat Asherie, is also an avant-garde performance piece in which her company, New York-based Ephrat Asherie Dance, inspired by images from Mo Willems, will have you boppin' around to the hypnotic natural and synth beats by Marty Beller. You'll crave one of costumer David Dalrymple's cool Willems-print unitards so that you too can climb the walls -- this time in a good way, and maybe with a fat marker in your hand with which to decorate and deface them.

"For me, writing a book is asking a question that I don't have the answer to," says Willems, the celebrated animator and children's book author and illustrator, in a short video on his website. While Willems is known for a pigeon, a bunny, a sheep, and the like, he also likes to explore abstractions. In the MOment is Asherie Dance's investigation -- in combined break, house, mime, and modern moves -- of some questions that those abstractions pose.

Questions like: How adorably mischievous can a line be? Will you still love it when it enters that awkward squiggle phase? Can you climb through an oval? If a circle and a triangle joined forces, would the circ-angle look like an ice-cream cone or a tear falling from an eye? If you draw a picture, can your friend dance it? If you erase it, will that friend disappear or just rattle around indeterminately? What if the floor became the ceiling and you turned into a spider? What if spirals transported you to various levels of multi-tiered imagination?

The fabulous dancers -- Dorren "Mogli" Smith, Eriko Jimbo, Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie, Teena Marie Custer, Valerie "Ms. Vee" HO, and Manon Bal -- join forces with animators David Bengali and Jacqueline Reed. Bengali also filmed and edited the production.

There is no dialogue, no spoken or vocalized anything. And yet another important question pushes its way forward: What if one fails?

"I think failure is wonderful," Willems says. "The way to learn is to fail." Ideas don't come to us, he explains. We grow them. Some are weedy and meant to be cast away, but others mature into what he calls, splendidly, "eccentric fruit."

In the MOment reflects that theme in sheets of paper that are contemplated, sometimes crumpled, often torn -- at one point toward the end into a veritable confetti celebration of all the lousy ideas we all have on the way to our next attempt, our next project, our next failure, our next inspiration, our next folly, our next bit of fun.

Then it's back to the drawing board -- literally. Adults use that expression so sadly. But why? What a lovely place to be. And what intrepid, graceful companions to enjoy it with.


Running Time: 26 and a half minutes
For tickets, click here

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