Project Bandaloop Review – When Art Hangs Itself

As a former dancer and lifelong art supporter, I was excited to see Project Bandaloop in their free performance at the Orange County Arts Center.  I checked out their videos on Youtube and the 2-3 minutes clips were good.  I had previously posted about their free performances on this site and encouraged friends and family to attend.

I was disappointed.

The performance may have been free in regards to money but it cost us in time, a much more precious commodity.

The premise for the dance company was good.  Dancing transposed to a larger stage in the form of giant cliffs or the walls of skyscrapers.   It’s an opportunity to contrast humanity against the vast scape of life.   Unfortunately, the execution isn’t there.   There was no soul, no emotion, and no connection.   I saw a lot of pretentiousness and cliches masquerading as art.

Warning:  Spoiler ahead.

No one fell.

The show started out slow with mediocre music that was forgettable.   I kept comparing the horn solo to the few seconds of saxophone riff in Bob Seger’s Turn The Page.   The latter captures my heart every time I hear it even with just a few notes.   In contrast, the former feels like a gimmick.

If you’re going to have a soloist play from the side of a multi-story building and spotlighted, make sure that the music is entrancing and the soloist is engaging.   The live musical composition was so boring that people around me ended up whispering to each other while many children in attendance completely tuned out the rest of the performance.

The next part was to have the dancers posing against the wall while giant videos of their faces are projected against the same wall.  They did pretentious attempts at poetry or the spoken word while shifting the poses.   I understand the idea that they were trying to go for but execution fell flat again.   The poetry ranged from bad to banal.   I’ve sat through a lot of really bad poetry by amateur poets and this was worse because it was pretentious.  I’ve heard more heart and soul from high school students at local poetry readings.

At this point, my husband felt gypped and joked that we should request a refund.  (The performance was free.)

This part was just excruciating and I admitted that I broke out my iPad and started answering emails and reading financial reports.  It was a lot more fun.   I had to distract myself or leave.  We thought about leaving like some of the audience but I wanted to give the dancers a chance.

Unfortunately the rest of the evening was not better.   There was a couple of minutes when glimpses of what the company could have been emerged but these were rare and few.   It just felt like they rested on their laurels and depended on a few repeated choreographed steps along with the newest fad of projecting videos against the backdrop.  Rolling up a security rope and throwing it down did not constitute dancing.   Repeating this step multiple times made it even worse.  Putting clothes on while hanging from a waist harness did not equal art.

The concept was great.  The earnestness of the dancers were there but there was no heart or soul.  There were retread steps from Martha Graham, cliches, and fads.

I came expecting to be awed and inspired.  I left as quick as I could after being bored and annoyed.

Art should be engaging.  It should always bring strong emotions from the audience.  The emotions can range from joy, amazement, tears, to disgust.

It would have been better for the company to be experimental and failed than to be cliche and failed.

I appreciate the money spent on supporting the company by corporate sponsors and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Hopefully, the company will fulfill its potential in the future.

The lesson that was reinforced to me once again: something free can cost you plenty.

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10 comments

  1. Time wasted in negativity

    The true lesson of this review is to NOT seek opinions on the Arts in ‘Money and Risk.’ While critical discourse should always be invited by artists (observe the very fair review of Project Bandaloop in the LATimes ), any ‘reviewer’ who turns away from the performance to her iPad for her financial reports shouldn’t deem herself interested enough in the Arts to lead a conversation, or write a review. If wasted time is a concern, it is notable that this ‘reviewer’ also took her time to spread vitriol on her blog. I am not sure what poetry Kim prefers (Neruda, Dickenson, Silverstein?), but maybe she should spend her time with things she enjoys rather than wasting ours with her sheer negativity.

    1. Mark,

      Thank you for visiting.

      The wonderful thing about art is its subjectivity. What appeals to me would not the same thing as what appeals to you. I was being honest with my personal opinion.

      Using the iPad for 5 minutes to force myself to sit through a performance instead of being rude and leaving as others in the audience were doing does not disqualify me as an art lover. After all, in Elizabethan times, the audience was allowed to throw rotten vegetables at performers that they dislike.

      What I had expressed was disappointment in the quality of the performance and choreography that I saw now vs. what I saw on the videos that were done a few years earlier. It was like watching two unrelated dance companies with the same name. I found out later that two or three years ago, Cirque du Soleil had recruited away most of the top people in Project Bandaloop.

      As to my poetry preference, I’m open to anything that touches me. I’ve listen to hundreds of local poetry readings throughout the United States. I’ve found myself moved to tears by raw cries for help from high school students. I’ve been shocked and amused by poetry written by a 93 year old lady. They were artists in my eyes because they touched my soul. Were they in someone else’s eyes? Who knows. I believe art is everywhere around us.

      At the end of the day, art is in the eye of the beholder and not just dictated by professional reviewers who tells us what art must be or not.

      1. And yet, you suggested it was a waste of time, rather than an experience of subjective response. You are completely misinformed on the Cirque de Soleil nonfactoid; check the bio page of the company website(projectbandaloop.org) before making such statements. Also, by your own admission, you were mired in youtube generated expectations rather than taking in the art that was actually in front of you. Let me assure you, it is much the same company it was three years ago. And, the idea that bringing an iPad to a live performance to occupy yourself isn’t rude puts quite a stretch on any interpretation of good manners.

  2. Bandaloop? More like a BoreAsnore. I am in absolute agreement with Kim. My fiance was in a quiet fit of laughter about 15 min in because she realized the hundreds of people around us were all thinking the same thing…what the hell are we watching? When does it get exciting like in the videos? Expressive dance becomes pretty mundane sitting 200 feet away when they are on the side of a giant wall not doing what actually would be intriguing. We left at intermission which was probably the best idea of the night, beating all the traffic. Pretentious all the way.

  3. hmmm… someone isn’t moderating replies very quickly. it takes all the fun, and pertinence, out of blogging. unless you just want your view out there, despite its relative width.

    1. and now selective moderation – my previous post is missing. there is no cross over between Project Bandaloop and Cirque de Soleil. poor practice for a poor ‘critic.’ as for the crowd response, over 18,000 attended over three nights. i am sure there are as many opinions as viewers; the majority expressed it’s opinion with cheering and enthusiastic applause. no more posts from me though – this page and the ‘critic’ that started the so-called conversation aren’t worth the time.

      1. @ Mark Knight,

        As mentioned in my reply of 30 seconds ago, I spent the weekend with my family and have not accessed any computer until tonight. I approved the 2 additional comments that you made over the weekend along with your reply here. All four of your comments were posted in full without any selective moderation.

        Since you are replying within seconds of comments I make, you obviously live on your computer 24/7. I don’t choose to do the same and will continue to choose when I work on my blog as it is a personal hobby.

  4. @ Mark Knight,

    My apologies for not hovering over my computer 24/7 to watch for comments during the weekend. Spending time with my family and in church is a higher priority.

    @ David

    We had quite a few people around us leave within the first 20 minutes of the performance especially those who were sitting at the edge. I convinced the people with me to stay until the end.

    1. hover where ever you like. but don’t you have an iPad – you don’t bring it to church, y’know, just in case? there so much hypocrisy and misinformation from you that it is hard not to continue…

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