Aera's Covered Sky is one of the most creative dance performances I've seen this year: entertaining, evocative, and with plenty of surprising moments. Covered Sky is like a poem; in fact the story started with a poem:
Let go, fall in, tear away. The moonlight mouth speaks the babble of that calling. Float down to the bottom. Nothing else points here. A fire burns. Do you like what you see?
Artistic director, Kyle McBeth and choreographers, Kyra Johannesen and Jen James Martin collaborated to create their first NYC premiere of Covered Sky, which ran from July 24 to July 28 at New York Live Arts.
"We always start with the story," said Kyra. "Then we add the music, choreography and other elements."
"We prefer for the audience to have their own take on the story," said Kyle. "That makes it more of a personal experience."
For me, the piece was a moody exploration of the multiple relationships in our lives, expressing the exhiliration, the doubt, and the tension between people as their knowing of each other evolves. Each member of the cast had unique strenths, and I particularly enjoyed the interplay between the male and female dancers.
Aera's overview says they aim to "expand the performance environment by creating a unique shared experience with our audience." They use fabric, pole and rope to "create a multifaceted experience of performance art." I look forward to seeing what Aera comes up with next.
La Gente Es La Gente is a monthly performance by Aera, an aerial dance company based in Brooklyn. Aera quote Oscar Wilde in their publicity for the show: "Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."
Because the last show at Casa Mezcal was on April 20th, the theme was 420, and each dancer created a performance about drug or alcohol use inspired by a character from popular media that has influenced them.
Casa Mezcal is a basement room with an alligator on one wall, a bison head on another, a stage with tasseled red curtains and space for about 100 people. The red curtains closed and opened music hall style between each act, while the dancers cleaned the pole themselves.
The first performer, Stella Fink, skipped on in a summer dress, followed shortly afterwards by a man dressed as a cannabis leaf. They then smoked a herbal cigarette, and Stella stripped down to a cannabis leaf-decorated bikini to do some amazing moves on the pole while the cannabis leaf man relaxed.
Jessica Linick at La Gente es La Gente 420
The next performer, Jessica Linick, came on in a striped shirt and wasted-looking make-up. She put on a fantastically desperate and creative performance, throwing herself around the pole as if she wanted to choke the life out of it.
Next came NYPD instructor, Caitlin Goddard, who slinked on in a black dress, taking swigs from a bottle of whiskey. The character she chose was Meg Ryan in the movie, When A Man Loves A Woman. At the end of her performance, she threw a glass of whisky at the pole and lolled against the back curtain.
Kelly McLaughlin strolled onstage wearing a floral dress with a man dressed as some kind of animal on a leash. A psilocybin mushroom poked in from the side and after she took a bite, she started indulging in shenanigans with the animal man, and I think she might have killed him at the end, but I’m not sure.
Jessica Mari at La Gente es La Gente 420
Jessica Mari followed, doing a sultry dance around the pole with a black bob and black leotard. She brought to mind Louise Brooks or Liz Taylor.
The elegant Nasty Canasta, came on and drank from a bottle while washing herself in a tin bath. This was not pole dancing, but the audience seemed to love it.
Steven Retchless danced to Johnny Cash’s "Hurt." Steven emerged to screams, removed his g-string to more screams, (he was wearing underpants underneath) and revealed a pair of plastic breasts to even more screams. Steven’s dancing is fierce and fluid, and I admired the strength with which he handled the pole.
Danielle Romano's bucket hat and khakis made me think of 70’s tv series Gilligan’s Island. She did a funny pole walk while suspended on the pole, and combined some very creative and strong moves.
What I love about Aera is that they combine dance, props and performance to create something artistic, surprising and often very funny. I look forward to seeing what they do next.