The Interpretations of Light

By Peter Liu

On the evening of February 4th, I braved the cold weather to attend the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company's second showing of their East Coast premiere of Light Moves at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The audience had the pleasure of hearing Margaret Jenkins herself speak before the show. She exclaimed that this would be the third time her company performed at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, and that her company had started working on the Light Moves project over a year ago. She explained that the show was inspired by the element of inquiry and tried to answer questions through dance.

Going into the show, I had the preconceived notion that the performance would be simply be a dance about light. Boy was I wrong!

The show was composed of bizarre movements with different eye-popping lighting backgrounds. The show started with a mysterious feel with ominous music being played by a live orchestra. Dressed in all white, the dancers slowly crab-walked onto the stage and began 70 minutes of purely strange interpretive dance. While I was confused most of the show trying to analyze and figure out what the dance means, I was greatly impressed by the dancers' stamina and extremely flexible movements. Contorting their bodies in all sorts of shapes, the dancers continually squirmed and jumped across the stage.

I first began to get an idea of my interpretation of the dance from the first of many narrative interludes of the show. Following the dialogue found in the program, I was able to see that the narrator was describing the many types of light that are found; "Mineral light and whale light, light of memory, light of the eye...firelight...spirit light and light of the blaze." This poem was so beautiful, as it showed both the light we can and can't see, as well as "philosophical" light of our memories. This explains the changing shifts of the digital background lights that included multicolored blobs that become more and more elaborate. It then shifted to a striped background that complemented an odd dance that resembled a tribal ceremony.

The light of fire was beautifully portrayed, as the performers, randomly it seems, jumped towards each other, lifting each other and continuing to move in such a bizarre way.

Light of time was also uniquely portrayed, as many times in during the show, the dancers spun their arms around and around, dizzying the audience into the sort of trance feel that existed throughout.

Overall, I was amazed, perplexed, and mesmerized by this performance, all at once. Again, I feel that it was one of the most bizarre shows I have ever attended. "How can a man move like that," I kept thinking throughout the show. Margaret Jenkins uniquely introduced the element of inquiry through her interpretations of the different types of light. In a state of awe and confusion, I left with all sorts of crazy thoughts in my head. It was definitely one of the more unique experiences that I will remember for a long time.