Everything’s Black & White: the 2019 Dogtown Presenter’s Series Brings Us “Circadian”

by | Oct 23, 2019 | PERFORMING ARTS

Circadian, a performance by Karar Dance Company inspired by Fan Ho’s photography of 1950s Hong Kong, will light up Dogtown Dance Theatre this weekend with performances in the round.

This past weekend and this coming weekend, Dogtown Dance Theatre is hosting its annual Presenter’s Series. This year’s featured artist is Kara Robertson, the Artistic Director of Karar Dance Company of Richmond. Robertson was selected to present “Circadian,” the company’s first evening-length production, and the fourth iteration of the Series.

The production is a collaborative feat of Richmond artists, featuring Robertson’s choreography, Weston Corey’s lighting design, Ryan Davis’s compositional score, Crux Scenica’s stage design, and Damion Bond’s costuming. “Circadian” is a 39-minute show with no intermission that encourages you to consider all perspectives of the work.

The most dynamic facet of this performance is its use of non-conventional seating. Usually, several rows of chairs will stack high in bleachers or auditorium formats as they face the stage; this form of seating, known as proscenium seating, is found in over 90% of dance showings. However, “Circadian” is performed with the audience seating surrounding the stage on all sides, colloquially known as “in the round.” I have had the opportunity to see the production from two angles, and it truly conducts like two different strings of choreography from each perspective. Robertson has crafted a unique and interactive concert to break boundaries across tradition, space, and time.

Photo by Mike Keeling

Inspired by Hong Kong Yesterday, Fan Ho’s black and white photography collection documenting 1950s Hong Kong, Robertson clad her five dancers in black outfits with white undertones. As they emerged for the beginning sequence, they began to walk the perimeter of the stage. The embodiment of personality from each characterized dancer, telling their story within a story, was an astounding accomplishment. When the dancers had each shown their face through miniature solos, unison walking and dance began, alongside a major shift in the orchestral score. A roaring cello guided edge-to-edge sprints and dream sequences of lucid movement. Dancer Haley Wall personally mesmerized as she conveyed and confessed her role to a boxed-in audience.

Crux Scenica’s set design featured a giant wooden structure hung above the stage in front of the theatre’s brightest lights, casting converging lines across the floor; an impressive object to be looming above the room. This design played on the tight, diverging streets of the bustling photos from Ho’s collection, among Robertson’s literal interpretation of some. Mimicking poses shown from active movement in Hong Kong citizens, the integration of the two projects was seamless. One of my favorite aspects of this collaboration was Davis’s original composition. Finding similar inspiration from Chinese sounds in orchestra, he composed the work after seeing the choreography being developed, piece by piece and second by second.

Photo by Dave Parrish

Robertson and Karar have created a special experience for dance lovers, and I can’t wait to see what their next show might be.

“Circadian” runs three more times this weekend, on Friday, October 25 at 7pm, and on Saturday, October 26 at 3pm and 7pm. Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for students, available on Dogtown’s website.

Top Photo by Kate Prunkl

Christopher McDaniel

Christopher McDaniel

Christopher Alan McDaniel is a 2015 VCU graduate with his Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Creative Writing. Chris aspires to be a collegiate professor of writing in his future. Until then, you can find him hosting free public creative writing workshops with the Filthy Rich and writing grants for Dogtown Dance Theatre. Chris can also be found around Richmond’s breweries and music venues enjoying what the city has to offer.

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