In the Zen Buddhist tradition, "satori" means "enlightenment," the moment when one realizes the true essence of things. For Michelle Dexter Moeller, artistic director of the Oklahoma City-based Perpetual Motion, it is the perfect word to sum up the show her company will present at the PAC June 29 and 30 as part of the SummerStage Festival.
"We felt that the majority of the works in the show are very much about identity and discovery," Moeller said. "We felt like 'satori' was representative of the 'a-ha' moment or series of moments we have as we make discoveries as individuals."
Perpetual Motion had an "a-ha" moment itself in 2005, when after three years exploring what Moeller (an MFA graduate of the prestigious dance program at Texas Woman's University) calls "traditional floor-based modern dance," professional aerial dancer Kim Kieffer-Williams joined the troupe. After several years of training in the technique, the company made it a consistent part of their repertory.
"Aerial dance provides new opportunities for choreography and allows us to challenge ourselves in how we think about dance and space and shape," explained Moeller. "It excites the audience in a way that traditional modern dance sometimes struggles to do."
Using long fabric loops hung from rigging above the stage, dancers climb, swing, flip, and spin, using the "silks" as a partner. Aerial dance can play with physics and perceptions in surprising ways, integrating acrobatic thrills with the musicality and expressiveness of traditional dance.
In Satori, Perpetual Motion will incorporate several aerial apparatuses including a bungee, hanging iron ladders (in a piece that explores "the heedless and deceitful attitude toward others in the pursuit of selfish gain"), and something the company invented: an "aerial carousel," which involves four linked swing-like structures, rigged so that four dancers can move together on them at the same time--right-side-up and upside-down.
Exciting as it is, "there are significant obstacles and challenges to aerial work," Moeller said. "It does limit the kind of space in which you can rehearsal and perform in and also has very specific technical requirements.
"Luckily the Tulsa Performing Arts Center has been working hard to make sure Perpetual Motion, Portico Dans Theatre (whose BorN, premiering in July, also incorporates aerial dance), and of course future dance and theater companies have a functional and safe environment that also allows for us to fully realize our artistic visions."
Perpetual Motion's artistic vision has developed out of a wide array of influences. Moeller cited postmodern choreographers like David Dorfman, Shen Wei, and Crystal Pite, as well as physical theater companies like Streb, Anti-Gravity, and Australian Dance Theater, as inspiring her company's work.
Satori features pieces choreographed by several members of the company, set to music by the likes of Murcof, Beats Antique, Scuba, Bonobo, and A Silver Mt. Zion.
Perpetual Motion's performance marks the first time a non-Tulsa company has appeared at the SummerStage Festival. (Moeller, a Tulsa native, performed in the festival with a youth theater group in her junior high and high school years, and her company has presented several concerts previously in Tulsa.)
"Last fall I met Chad Oliverson, who is with the PAC Trust, and we discussed ways to bridge the gap between the arts organizations in Tulsa and OKC," Moeller said. "He suggested we apply for SummerStage this year. We are excited to present to a new audience and engage with the Tulsa arts community in a new way."
Perpetual Motion will perform Satori June 29 and 30 at 8pm in the Liddy Doenges Theatre at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
Oklahoma creatives can get in on the dance action in more ways than just attending performances. The Oklahoma Dance Film Festival, founded and curated by the University of Tulsa's Jessica Vokoun and now in its 6th year, is now seeking submissions for its 2012 event.
Filmmakers may submit in three separate categories: dynamic short films under 20 minutes that use movement as a medium for storytelling or visual spectacle; longer features exposing the process, history, and theory of dance; or choreographic works created or re-created specifically for the screen.
Last year's festival received submissions from right here in Tulsa and around the world. The event featured more than 20 films in a variety of aesthetics: from animation to black-and-white, from highly stylized to simple and straightforward.
The deadline for entries is August 1, 2012. Complete guidelines can be found at okdancefilms.com, or by writing email@example.com.
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