Kiera Baity, “The Ki to Writing”
Angels or ghosts march one by one, each feeding off the other until their energy welded; one man left representing them all. subzero by Patsy Collins was chilling. A narrative unveiled through unpredictable shifts.
Walking in, the audience encountered a colorless room and stage. It felt otherworldly: subzero dancers walking onto the floor one by one, some falling out like ragdolls; others helping them to their feet before moving on. Suddenly one dancer broke the pattern, collapsing and slowly rolling every part of their body on the ground like a defeated soldier trying to stand. In this moment the music faded in, and the movements became more expressive. Similar shifts happened throughout, with the music signaling a point of transition. When the music would pause, the dancers' panting breaths filled the silence. The potency of the sound echoing off the achromatic essence of the room seemed deliberate, as if Collins wanted the technique to not only be heard but felt.
From the program, subzero “marked the end of one process and the beginning of a journey forward committed to creation and community, using the art form as a vehicle.” We saw that process as the dancers froze and broke like glaciers before melting all at once. They floated down gracefully, landing at the bottom, with their bodies huddled on top of one another. There was an animal-like sense within their contemporary movements after melting to the floor.
Emma Morris and Aryanna Allen were two dancers that stood out. I was drawn to the stature of Allen’s presence, certainly aided by her height. Her movements heightened like a garland of ivy vines gliding in the wind. Morris had amazing control One specific moment in the piece -she’s standing away from the other dancers who were draped across each other on the floor. Poised on one foot while the other hung inches off the ground, her strength in being unbalanced, yet controlled, was impressive. This also showed Collins’ knack for knowing the strengths of each dancer in order to impact the scenes.
All the dancers in their chalk-white clothes gave the room a freezing feel. Wearing white for subzero marked the end of one process, and the beginning of a new journey forward. No, the performance didn’t feel like a funeral, but there was definitely a rebirth that happened with the dancers: creatures: extraterrestrials, saying goodbye to a polar order, and hello to a new way of chilling; expanding the view of renaissance. From the dancers throwing themselves, and each other, to the cooling vs. the rushing of each sequence, there was definitely a sense of community amidst the crystalline motions.
However, the music didn’t solidify the scene changes toward the subtle narrative structure. Yes, the tone of the music moved the performance along, going from ambient to a soft climatic drumming, but other choices could’ve enhanced the overall worldly the audience was taken to: the idea of a cold world thawing into a new beginning.
subzero hinted at meaning, but ultimately left the audience with their own interpretation. Its abstract visuals offered an almost telepathic experience amongst the dancers. One that was evocative and algid enough to mystify the production.