Dohee Lee’s ARA Ritual I: Waterways, Photos by Robbie Sweeny
Have, you ever noticed, when you attend a CounterPulse show, that you, as a member of the the audience, stand a good chance of having a performer ask for your help with summoning something? Energy, clapping your hands, stomping your feet, all kinds of vocal stuff, divine light, whatever. It’s one of many interactive fun things that audience get involved with at CounterPulse.
On Thursday, September 8 at Dohee Lee’s show, we (audience) were asked to summon a Goddess. Sure enough, after some energetic summoning (vocals, stomping, clapping and whistling) the Goddess did indeed, appear.
Have you ever seen the lion dancers that go on Chinese New Year? The lion, dancers, and musicians comes bounding down the street, accompanied by bright sounding drums, bells, gongs, and firecrackers, bringing blessings of the new year and clearing away evil spirits. Well the Goddess we summoned did all that x10, through the body of one woman.
The Goddess came swirling in, beautifully clothed as only a Goddess can be. I found the large white flower at the top of its long stem, perched on a skull cap, extremely hypnotic. The Goddess’ dancing activated the flower, making it open and close like an all seeing eye open and closing or the beating of a heart. The flower in itself was another musical instrument of sorts, marking time with the rhythm of the dance.
Embodied in the costumes, and the movement were echoes of several cultures, giving a sense of the whole world. For example, there was a patchwork, heavily textured fabric dress sporting an abbreviated bata de cola from a flamenco dress. This additional costume element, was a bridge, connecting the rhythms stamped out by Dohee feet, to many cultural sources.
The collaboration among Dohee’s production team (sound designer, costumer, animated abstract light patterns, stage lighting, projected video, hand props) created a very tech saturated environment, that was mesmerizing. The production elements were integrated within themselves and more over with the dance itself.. The great German opera and theater directors referred to the goal of successful integration of music and staging, as mise en scene. Dohee and her collaborators, nailed it.
The range and diversity of culture, beliefs and experiences that performers bring to the CounterPulse stage seems endless. Dohee shares her family’s experience with immigration and life as immigrants to America. It was a story of hope, disappointment, anger, sacrifice, victory, the power of love, family, and determination. I’ve mentioned in this blog before, don’t expect a happy ending at CounterPulse shows, but you are almost guaranteed a hopeful ending.
Dohee’s show was a beautiful experience for many reasons, I felt like I had been gifted something intangible. I’m still trying to define it, give it a name, but maybe that’s the point, it’s a happy enigma.
Rick Darnell is the CounterPulse Community Engagement Fellow. He is a practicing artist, and long time Tenderloin resident. Rick is the Project Coordinator for TAll, the Tenderloin Art Lending Library.