Imagine this: 8 dancers performing a symphony to music conducted by a classical orchestra set on a background of classical bust sculptures. Sounds a bit archaic, right? Now imagine the dancers (with choreography by Jonah Bokaer) dressed in baby pink union suits, shorts, and hoodies performing to music composed by Pharrell Williams and the busts being contemporary versions of basketballs, hands, and faces created for collision by artist Daniel Arsham. That’s exactly what the audience of SOLUNA 2016 grand opening experienced last night (May 17) in Dallas, TX.
SOLUNA, a festival dedicated to the cross-pollination of art, dance, film, performance, music, and new media inaugurated last year (2015) by the Dallas Symphony, had the honor of being the first in the world to show the piece by the three masters Arsham, Bokaer, and Williams. And while the audience was lucky enough to experiencing two previous performances by Bokaer (one of which was a beautiful solo involving a large roll of paper backdrop performed by himself) it was without a doubt the final show that filled the Winspear Opera House in downtown Dallas.
While the music didn’t have the same energy as we have come to expect from Oscar-nominated Williams, it still contained some parts of the style he’s become famous for. Like the beat–felt throughout the performance–which worked as a catalyst for the shifts in speed and mood in the choreography by New York-native Jonah Bokaer. The dramatic strings also played into the dance; layers of clothes (designed by Chris Stamp / Stampd) was removed to what sounded like the music of an impending murder (think Hollywood blockbuster Scream) until two dancers (male), topless, performed a full hi-speed/slow-mo fight at the center of stage. The six remaining performers were seated around the battling pair with Arsham created clay busts in hand. The busts, which could also be seen exploding in slow-mo collisions in the film playing in the background, changed direction from looking directly at the brawl to looking away. Complete with basketballs, streetwear, and heavy beats, the performance was clearly inspired by hip-hop culture.
At the end of the energy-filled performance, the audience gave the creators a standing applause. Daniel Arsham, Jonah Bokaer, and conductor David Campbell took to their bow on stage after Arsham and Bokaer each broke one of the clay busts onto the floor as the final finish of the one-night only show.