Utopia Parkway in Review
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 15:09
Utopia Parkway, directed and performed by two of Smith College’s own assistant professors of dance, Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser, captures the creative process of artist Joseph Cornell (1906-1972) through improvisational dance, lighting and sound techniques.
Cornell, a collector of objects according to biographer and author of Utopia Parkway Deborah Solomon, “attached a sensuality to inanimate objects” that he found in shop windows while passing through New York City streets. Returning his collection of miscellaneous objects back to his abode and workshop in Flushing, New York: 3708 Utopia Parkway, Cornell would use the things he gathered to fill intricate boxes with his objects in order to spark a sense of interest and beauty. The props used by Aiken and Hauser throughout their performance resembled Cornell’s.
This concert was, in a sense, an entire collection of things similar to one of Cornell’s boxes. The set had a number of random objects that appeared strange and haphazardly placed. But when the objects were viewed together as a whole, the set exuded cohesiveness. The stage was surrounded with an array of props from doors and chairs to potted plants, wooden crates and glass orbs. The props were set in clusters around the space of the stage and were carried into the performance at various times during the dancing.
The concert embodied Cornell’s use of gathering in his creative process, collecting sound, lighting and dance onstage. Each aspect of the concert was improvised and unique to the moment the cast and crew were in. When the dancers changed the fluidity or purpose in their movements, a ripple effect occurred in the lighting and sound, and sometimes vice versa. These different aspects gathered together in harmony with each aspect of the concert consolidating the piece.
For the most part, the concert was serious and striking but a few phrases that were more lighthearted and fun drew some chuckles from the audience. These phrases involved the use of vocalization by the dancers as they remained seemingly still on the stage. One such instance was when Hauser announced to the audience, “I thought he [Aiken] was gonna go.” This was the first time the audience heard from a dancer onstage, and this simple sentence drew laughter from many in the audience, including President Carol Christ who was in attendance Thursday night.
The end of the concert was an event that left the audience quiet, stunned and wanting more. Aiken lied down on the stage, appearing weak and unable to rise from the floor. Hauser covered him with wooden crates, from head to toe, slowly crate by crate. When Hauser finished covering Aiken, she walked slowly away to sit down in a lawn chair behind him as the lights gradually faded from a tranquil yellow to a blackout. The audience sat in silence for what seemed like minutes, gaping in awe and perplexity.
“The whole show came together so fluidly…the way the dancers balanced their weight on each other, and the strength of the dancers was incredible. For those who unfortunately were not able to make it, they missed out on something amazing!” said Lizzie Anderson-Krengal ’15.