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.
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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