THE name “Four-Headed Dance II” may conjure images of mythological, fire-breathing monsters or the Hindu god Brahma. But the quartet of heads in the title of this dance showcase — appearing at Highways Performance Space tonight through Saturday — refers to something a bit less supernatural, though not necessarily any less divine: four choreographers.
The hope is, it will be a case of four heads being better than one as coordinator Keith Glassman has invited three other established choreographers — Kiha Lee, Kristen Smiarowski and Sri Susilowati — to join him in this sequel to his June 2006 effort, also at Highways. The aim is not only to present Los Angeles premieres of eclectic dance/theater, but also to foster feedback among artists who often work in isolation.
In many showcases, according to Glassman, the artists involved don’t share their work “until the day of the performance, and there’s no real opportunity to give feedback.” In preparation for Four-Headed Dance, the choreographers gathered periodically to show each other the work in progress and exchange ideas.
Susilowati, whose work blends modern choreographic concepts and classical Indonesian technique, is appreciative of this approach. “Feedback before one goes ‘live’ is great and hard to get,” she says. “Independent choreographers have to be very entrepreneurial, so having a support net is really wonderful.” Gauging an audience’s reaction is particularly important when, as Glassman says, you have a group of choreographers “trying to explore the boundaries of what can be done on stage.”
Glassman pushes the envelope by incorporating non-dancers into his pieces.
“When you see a dance performance, you expect everybody can touch their head to their toes,” he says. But “if everybody can do it, then it’s not interesting.”
That’s why — in a series of dances investigating cultural communities dislocated from their origins — he’s included community members without dance training. In his new work “Kiss Me,” an exploration of the Mexican diaspora into the United States set to corridos, or storytelling ballads, a mother of one of the dancers will join the performers.
Lee and Smiarowski, in their respective pieces, look to experiment with music, sound and text in novel ways. Lee’s “Three Women” employs three types of music and various languages to communicate the experience of a Korean immigrant adapting to American culture. In “The Key Game,” a choreographic response to Polish writer and Holocaust survivor Ida Fink’s short story by the same name, Smiarowski utilizes a lush soundscape to evoke a family preparing for the arrival of soldiers during Nazi occupation.
Susilowati is more tight-lipped about what her piece “Tangkep” has in store for audiences. It will explore sexual identity and cross gender themes from the Indian epic “The Mahabharata” using, as Glassman describes, “visual images of natural elements.” Exactly what those images are she won’t reveal.
“While I don’t want to sound mysterious,” says Susilowati, “at the same time, I’d rather not give too much away.”