CRASHArts' juxtaposition of the clanging multi-sensory collaborations of Kinodance with the laugh-while-you-cry musical compositions of Lorraine Chapman jangles like a sock to the jaw.
The two groups hail from different aesthetic planets, despite their both being Boston-based, and even an intermission between the acts isn't enough to smooth the passage. But patience - along with ultra-concentration - has its rewards in this shared concert of premieres at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Each contribution has the power to rock a bit of your world.
Kinodance merges the talents of artists of myriad stripes - choreographer/dancers Alissa Cardone and Ingrid Schatz, filmmaker Alla Kovgan, visual artist Dedalus Wainwright, musician/composer Roger Miller (Mission of Burma, Alloy Orchestra), and lighting designer Kathy Couch - to posit an "intermedia" world of flashing lights, bodies, and sounds onstage.
The two pieces the company presented last night both take their inspiration from a technological "advance" of years gone by. Viewers would do well to read the program notes before the show begins; yes, a work of art should be able to stand on its own. But knowing the history goes a long way toward clarifying meaning here.
And "meaning" is about sensation - what you feel - not so much what you can translate into words.
"Behemoth" - to a now-throbbing, now-thrumming, now-screeching sound score by Jessica Rylan - recasts the 18-century ocular harpsichord as a barrel-shaped cage of slats dangling from the ceiling. As Cardone, in poufy white, jabs an elbow here, or squats and spins there, Rylan, in vivid red, sits at a console and manipulates knobs that appear to set the scene in motion. The projections on the cage can set you reeling: Lights morph from a chain-link fence to crossword puzzle's crossings to black flames on a dark night.
"Fuse" springs partly from Kinodance's fascination with the "lumia box," a unit with a screen resembling a TV set invented by light artist Thomas Wilfred in the '20s and '30s. Wilfred programmed the thing to play colorful, dynamic light shows of spectacular imagery. Kinodance takes the concept and runs with it, crafting a narrative inspired by the film "Blade Runner," with characters (four women: one in red, one in white tails, one in a punked-up tutu, one in Amazonian glitter) who cavort, hang, flip, gyrate inside or outside a giant box encased in taut gauze on which and through light splinters into confetti, explodes into wide green bands or windows, erupts in pink bubbles or ribbons of fire.
Miller plays the piece's alternately tinkling, melodic, rasping score on a "prepared" piano of his own devising: 1890 McPhail upright piano whose strings are studded with bolts, screws and other objects. The music does more than set the stage or accompany the movement and play of light. It too stands on its own, as a character.
"Meaning" in Lorraine Chapman's "Here to There" - which also features segments by choreographers Marcus Schulkind and David Parker - has an emotional core that hits home via a kinesthetic punch. With some judicious editing, it could resonate even more.
Set to a sound score including works by John Philip Sousa, Arvo Part, Gavin Bryars, and Mandy Patinkin, the dance for eight swings from humor to pathos as it tracks the hills and valleys of "no business like show business." "Long before the dawn of history, man danced," intones the narrator, setting the piece in motion.
Elements of cabaret and Broadway dazzle commingle with technically electric modern movement and eccentricities as disparate as hands slapping thighs, fists pounding chests, and mouths pursed to spit. America the beautiful (the sentiment and the song) makes an appearance. By the end the dancers are stripped emotionally, and physically, bare: Down to black underpants and bras skivvies, they somberly intone snippets of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
The last line echoes as you leave: "Why then oh why can't I?