Jessica Lang Dance is to movement what music is to sound. Following a residency and several Arizona performances, the rising star company concluded its desert visit with a performance last night at Mesa Arts Center. New York-based founder and choreographer Jessica Lang talked to Examiner just before the performance last night about her creative process.
“I say I’m a visual artist whose medium is dance,” Lang, who was recently recognized with a Bessie Award for Best Emerging Choreographer, began the conversation. “I start with a specific image in mind, see how it fits a stage. ….Movement is added last, placed within the framework. I need boundary to keep the movement focused.”
Then the lights dimmed, the dancing began and Lang’s descriptions came to life.
‘Mendelsohn Incomplete’ was completed by the dance itself. That is, the six flowing dancers, in waves of muted plum and slate gray, actually became a representation of the music. They weren’t dancing to a piano concerto, they were an integral embodiment of the music.
“The whole is what is recognizable,” Lang had said before the show began of her pieces that are a fusion of ballet and contemporary dance. Her explanation was self evident as the evening progressed. The audience enjoyed seven numbers, each creating a representation of a discernible whole idea or image.
‘Among the Stars’ was an elegant, monochromatic tale of yearning told in shimmering silvery gray. What Lang described as “a contemporary Pas de Deux on pointe” used the dramatic rise and ripple of a simple but iridescent bolt of translucently glistening fabric to fabulous effect.
“I wanted to slow down,” remarked Lang in answer to what motivated her move from a worldwide freelance choreographer to a director for her own company in 2011. She talked about enjoying time to create and set pieces for specific dancers whose individual styles she knew.
Literally, she did slow down when she created ‘White: A Dance on Film’ which was also featured last night at Mesa Arts Center. Using three different film speeds the two dimensional display of filmed dance was one of the most multi-dimensional pieces of the evening. With good reason, Dance Magazine has hailed Lang as “a master of visual composition.”
Time was stilled yet again during ‘i.n.k.’, a striking dance told in shadow and silhouette. The company again shifted into the whole ‘becoming a moving representation of auditory sensation.’ The dancers became the undulating sound, part of the structural composition of black liquid burbling across a white stage. The piece projected video images of slowed, high resolution splashing ink splatters on a scrim behind the dancers. It concluded as a duo in the company used their bodies to tell the round story of a two-minute descent of a single drop of ink appearing to fall from rafters to stage floor.
“Clean simplicity, nothing haphazard,” is Lang’s stated goal. She seems to have achieved it through fusion. Yes, a fusion of ballet and modern dance. But even more, a fusion of movement to sound. She allows in original fashion the rest of us to watch as dance becomes visual music.