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  • Writer's pictureJen Norris

Review: Clarissa Dyas + Jakob Pek present “Something Remains” Oct. 21, 2022 Dresher Ensemble Studio

The room was abuzz in anticipation of the debut of a new creative voice come to the fore. A Bay Area dance insiders’ event, everyone seemed to know everyone else. We had gathered at the Dresher Ensemble Studio (DES) to experience the work of dancer and choreographer Clarissa Dyas and musician Jakob Pek. This one-night-only performance of Something Remains is the culmination of Dyas and Pek’s month-long residency at DES.

The houselights are on and conversations are in full swing as four performers enter unobtrusively. Laying atop a six-foot wide strip of canvas the width of the performance area, they writhe almost unperceptively. Minutes pass, patrons continue to arrive. The dancers have begun working their way under the canvas, a hand or foot inching under, carving space for their bodies.

As the houselights fade, we realize the bodies have disappeared. What remains are lumps in gradual motion under the canvas. The pianist, Julie Moon, manipulates the strings of the piano with her hands. The audience is suddenly rapt. The covered bodies rise creating a caterpillar of sorts. Gabriel Christian, singing softly to himself, drags the long stiff fabric behind them like a cape, before rotating to wrap themself in awkward folds of material. Managing the volume is difficult. Christian adjusts and readjusts the load in close proximity to the patrons in front. Will they become part of the show?

The only light is created by a video of ever-transforming watercolor slashes and egg-shaped blobs projected on the backwall. In the video’s glow, three dancers make the wall their stage. They push their backs against it with bent knees as if in chairs. They stand on their hands, toes touching the wall. They walk down the wall on the soles of their feet arriving in a plank position with stiff arms pushing away from the floor.

Moon and Christian vocalize into the lidless piano creating a resonant tone. As the other three performers join in, the reverberant tone becomes impressively loud. An improvisational dance unfolds, beginning with trembling hands. The vibration in the music is taking form in their bodies as a shimmy. Dyas and Ainsley Tharp experiment with counterbalancing each other’s weight. Holding hands, with their feet touching and arms extended, their stiff bodies lean away from each other’s forming a triangle. They slip to the ground. Their bodies stretched out long and straight, they roll across the floor, conjoined-twins connected by the bottoms of their feet.

(Dyas (Left) and Christian (Right) prepare the stage in final scene of Something Remains; Photo: J Norris)

From behind a curtain Dyas maneuvers a tall see-through folding screen on wheels. It is comprised of three eight-foot-tall clear panels, hinged together. Its likely purpose is to deflect sound, but in this case, it folds to become an enclosure. Two more screens are rolled in and placed side-by-side. A dancer enters each. Moving in unison, they pace, performing a cross step then bending at the waist. Repeating the sequence over and over, though slowing with exhaustion, they gaze into the audience, unsettled animals. In pink light, the dancers sway seductively to a jazzy drumbeat. They are on display, perhaps for sale, in their tiny rooms. As the music becomes discordant the dancers become frantic to get out, measuring the screen’s height with their arms, jumping, assessing the open top as an escape route. Narrowly avoiding collision, they spin and move their triangular cages from within.

The stage is dark, but for a flashlight, which Dyas directs at Tharp, who is again within the clear structure. Dipping her hands in a jar of black paint, she draws a square and peers out at us through her newly made window. Hannah Ayasse smears paint all over the walls of her structure. Dyas and Christian paint loose silhouettes of people on the fabric hanging on the backwall.

With the stage cleared of screens, the performers work to cover the floor with large pieces of canvas over which they unfurl two long strips of white paper. The dancers lay at the ends of the papers, as Ayasse pours first black, and then pink, paint into their palms and onto their feet. Slipping and sliding in the paint, the dancers perform two improv duets. Paint patterns, from their movement, are recorded on the canvas and paper. With tenderness they pause to decorate each other’s faces with paint: a beard and mustache for one, thick black eyebrows and lips for another. Someone gets a ladder, someone else a rolling screen. They work together to drape the long strips of painted paper over the ladder, a sawhorse, and the screen, displaying what remains of their dance. Instrumentalist Jakob Pek joins the dancers in their little paper fort centerstage. He plays with the feedback between a cellphone and his electric guitar, and thus it ends. Rich in dance and visuals with fascinating live music (which got short shrift here, but was more than deserving of its own review). It was a captivating, thought-provoking, and entertaining evening. I look forward to whatever comes next from Dyas and Pek’s creative partnership.

NOTE: Something Remains is the culmination of a Dresher Ensemble Artist Residency (D.E.A.R.) ,which Dyas and Pek received in 2022. Applications for the 2023 cohort of Dresher Ensemble Artist Residencies are open until now through November 15, 2022. More info here.

(Bows for Clarissa Dyas and Jakob Pek's Something Remains at the Dresher Ensemble Studio; Photo: J. Norris) Review by Jen Norris, October 25, 2022 Credits:

Something Remains is an experimental multimedia performance piece that weaves together movement, music, film, visual art and improvisation into a meta-iterative reflection of our collective being and is co-Directed by Clarissa Dyas and Jakob Pek in collaboration with Performers: Hannah Ayasse, Gabriele Christian, Julie Moon, Aaron Oppenheim, Ainsley Tharp & Jennifer Wilsey. Lighting Designer: Jessi Barber-

Performance at Dresher Ensemble Studio, 2201 Poplar Street, Oakland, CA

Friday October 21, 2022

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