Dance elements don’t live up to an ambitious performance installation

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The Pillow Project’s Taylor Knight in “(a) Long Here.” Photo by Aaron Jackendoff.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Live dance, dance on film and art combined in The Pillow Project’s long-form performance installation (a) Long Here, which opened last week at the company’s loft venue, The Space Upstairs, in Point Breeze.   

The exhibit is inspired in part by Danny Hillis’ Clock of the Long Now (a 10,000-year clock). As seen on the second of its 16 consecutive nights, (a) Long Here focused on themes of duration and time and encouraged attendees to roam the loungelike venue and view more than a dozen works of art. Many of these sculptures, paintings, poems and films were created by Pillow Project artistic director Pearlann Porter.

Three times during the loosely structured two-hour event, Porter informally gathered the audience to view improvised dance solos. These included a buoyant five-minute solo by Ru Emmons-Apt in which she took her motivation from the contents of a note pulled from an audience-suggestion jar. In Porter’s own 10-minute solo, “Until They All Fall,” she danced around an oversized hourglass, watching the hourglass drain sand and rolling around on the floor as the loft’s lights were switched on and off. However, though they reflected the motif of the passage of time, Porter’s improvised movement choices were oversimplified and uninteresting, save an emotional ending section in which, realizing the sand was about to run out, she began panicking and whimpering as if her life were running out with it.

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The Pillow Project’s Pearlann Porter in “(a) Long Here.” Photo by Aaron Jackendoff.

The exhibit’s marquee work, “An Accumulation of Nows,” with concept and direction by Porter, was a 25-minute solo installation performed by dancer Taylor Knight to clock-like recorded music by PJ Roduta.

In front of a white wall with two doors, Knight performed the fidgety solo laced with spastic outbursts in which he played off of a projected video image of himself recorded the previous evening. The idea is that each night of the installation’s run, more and more video echoes of Knight would be seen, even as the solo changed with each performance. But while Knight’s animated performance was appealing, the piece itself went nowhere and lacked craft.

While the experimental (a) Long Here realized its goal of promoting thought about our relationship with time, sadly, its dance components proved largely unremarkable.

The Pillow Project presents (a) Long Here, nightly through Thu., April 30; The Space Upstairs, 214 N. Lexington St., Point Breeze, $10-15 (unlimited access exhibit pass).

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on April 22, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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