Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Friday, November 7

A Neighborhood Gem!

Only three children today, so Sara watched them in the morning, and I watched them in the afternoon.
Lisa stopped by with some soup this morning, and it is just the kind of warm and yum a chilly day like today needs.

Steven and I go to so a Mary Paula Hunter with Jump! production this evening, called Frag-MentD.  Jump is a small dance company in Providence, directed by Mary Paula Hunter.  She is a free spirited, creative teacher who collaborates with the dancers she works with, young and old to create unique performances. She has a very devoted following of dancers, and I have seen the women in this particular performance grow and blossom as dancers in the eight years I have been following and supporting my daughter Ayla's passion for stage design and management.  She has directed the technical aspects of shows in Mary Paula's living room and in theaters throughout the city, and always does an amazing job.

If you have never been to a Mary Paula Hunter show, one where she tells stories and performs, you are missing out on some of the most interesting and sometimes bizarre performance art.
Mary Paula does these small productions about once a year. When they have been hosted in her house, she clears out her living and dining rooms and turns her house into a performance space.  One half of it is for seating, the other for storytelling and performance.  She delivers a monologue, while the girls in her troupe dance out parts of her story.  It often involves making a mess with food or water, which is always surprising.  The shows are always short, intimate and very entertaining.

She now has a studio in the basement of the Church of the Redeemer on Hope Street.  It is a medium sized space, complete with a stage, but Mary Paula likes to have the audience up close, so she uses the floor space instead of the stage.

Tonight when we enter, there are six dancers laying on the floor, beneath balls of ice the size of fists that are dripping on the dancers.  Each of the young women have a line they say, in sequence, which they repeat several times.  The lines are parts of conversations you might imagine have happened in this space.

The audience is seated in three pews that are on either side of the room, all facing the center.  There are barre stands in the middle of the performance space, with four stations at each corner, a bench, a waffle house, a practice space and a corner illuminated with rope lighting.  There are cardboard boxes on the stage, with geometrical patterns cut out, lit from within. 

Mary Paula roller blades around the girls in the center of the room when their conversation stops, counting each lap as she goes. 

In the practice corner, there is a lone dancer watching a video, which was taken in Mary Paula's empty house, from a past show.  While watching the dancers, she tries to follow along.

As the next scene begins with the six dancers on the center of the floor, Mary Paula lays on the floor near the lone dancer, who stops and dumps a bowl of water over Mary Paula's head.

The other dancers continue on, in a scene that seems to break down into a teenage spat, but is scripted.  Or was it?

We are asked to follow as the dancers exit through a doorway, and we find ourselves in a small room, just large enough for the twenty of us to fit in, leaving a small space for the dancers to move in the center.

From a corner of the room, a former member of the company launches into a monologue, a Mary Paula monologue, and captures her teacher's personality perfectly. She mimics the rise and fall of voice, tone and character with such perfect intonation and timing.  It is beautiful to see how this young woman has blossomed as a performer.

The dancers file out of the room, and we follow.  Seating is wherever you can plant yourself, Steve and I watch from the side of the room near the door to the small room.  The next piece is performed on the stage, where one of the pews has its back resting.   All those seated there must now turn around to watch this dance.  It ends with a hauntingly beautiful song sung by the dancers, and at this point I realize that until now,  there has been no music. It continues on this way, dancing unaccompanied by music, sometimes to rhythmic counting, sometimes to spoken phrases, often in the quiet of the feet of ballerinas dancing. 

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