Review: Bianca Cabrera/Blind Tiger Society: Fever Dreams
From the primordial world they grew, a low light revealing a mass pulsing to life. The swelling became a quartet of beings with torsos covered in diagonal stripes of mod day-glo hues, shiny colored limbs, bright head wraps and wild antenna-like hair puffs. They glided over the floor using their legs and their bellies, nothing human about these performers. They struggled to remain upright, collapsing repeatedly, falling forward, folding at the waist like life-size stuffed dolls. When on their feet they hovered close to each other. They became a single creature or a co-dependent pod. Bouncing in unison, as if on pogo sticks, they bumped shoulders as they navigated through the space together.
ODC’s State of Play dance festival continued to bring forth innovated work with Bianca Cabrera/Blind Tiger Society’s Fever Dreams, presented in a single performance on June 10 in ODC Commons Studio B. The original music by Ben Juodvalkis was integral to the experience. Using a combination of synthesizer, strong percussion and sounds of the natural world including bird calls, insect chirping and rushing water, he created a space for these creatures to flourish. There were several sections of song, the most memorable lyrics being, You are scared the monster in me is you and I’ll eat you before you eat me. At one point a strong drumbeat filled the space and the dancers’ torsos responded with sharp isolations of shoulders and hips moving in opposition as if something inside them was contorting them and trying to escape.
Choreographer Bianca Cabrera has crafted something purely original and captivating in Fever Dreams. Her genre of dance is impossible to define with influences of burlesque, ballet, go-go, club, cabaret, camp, contemporary and modern dance. The execution was fearless. These dancers used their athleticism, flexibility and strength to create new shapes and ways of traveling. They never gave in to the practicality of merely standing on one’s feet. Low to the ground, bug-like, one bent the top of their head to the floor, using it as a foot in a tripod stance.
Each new section revealed a different sphere of this magical place full of original flora and fauna. The stage awash in green with shadows of palm fronds, the four dancers nested one behind the other in deep plié, their thighs parallel to the floor, their knees creating right angles so that a four-headed caterpillar was revealed. Dancers broke away, twirled, shimmied under legs and then were subsumed back into the creature.
A beetle was born; birthed by dancers Jhia Jackson and Chelsea Mulholland. Their bodies wrapped around each other; their costumes melded them into a single unit in perpetual rolling motion. Head over heels, they crossed the stage. A second being was revealed in a pool of light on the far side of the stage, this one animated by Bianca Cabrera and Nina Wu. Both were in full splits facing each other crotch to crotch. They inched along the floor, one scooting back a bit and then pulling the other abruptly closer so they were once again touching leg to leg the full length of their splits. There was nothing delicate nor dancerly about their movement, adding to the intrigue of this organic form.
Near the end of the performance the choreographer allowed the dancers to separate, get on their feet, and do the high kicks, leaps and spins more typical of a dance recital. Despite its joyfulness and exuberance this section took away from the otherworldliness Ms. Cabrera had created.
The piece concluded with a reprise of the monster inside me song, as the dancers performed a complicated series of lifts, each unusual and unbalanced sufficiently to be thrilling and slightly scary to observe. The effort was clear in the dancers’ bodies and faces. The piece reached its satisfying end as the bodies melted into each other once again on the floor in the spot where they had begun, returned to the primeval soil.
Is the world of Fever Dreams an underground cave with fluorescent creatures, a rainforest, an undersea world, a joyful moonscape? We get to decide, but wherever it is, I would go there again.
Part of ODC's State of Play Festival 2022
Performance June 10, 2022 6:00 p.m.
ODC Commons Studio B
Direction and Choreography: Bianca Cabrera Original Music: Ben Juodvalkis Lyrics: Bianca Cabrera and Ben Juodvalkis Vocals: Bianca Cabrera Additional musical performance: Béla Marcello Cabrera Seeber Costume Design: Krystal Harfert Lighting Design: GG Torres Performers: Bianca Cabrera, Jhia Jackson, Chelsea Mulholland and Nina Wu