Califone and Robyn Mineko Williams & Artists
Echo Mine v2
Audiotree STAGED Series Webcast
October 27, 2020
Reviewed by Steve Sucato
For those who missed Echo Mine, Robyn Mineko Williams and Artists and Chicago experimental rock band Califone’s acclaimed 2019 collaboration, October 27th’s online restaging, Echo Mine v2 offered up an even more in-depth viewing experience than perhaps the live show. The evening-length work was inspired by and created alongside late founding member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) and longtime director of the Lou Conte Dance Studio, Claire Bataille.
Choreographed by former HSDC dancer Robyn Mineko Williams in collaboration with Bataille, the work was originally conceived as a gift from Williams to Bataille, her mentor. Bataille, before she died, said she wanted the theme of the work to be about loss, not knowing how prophetic that would be in the arc of its creation for those she left behind to finish and perform the work.
Echo Mine v2’s Audiotree STAGED Series webcast brought that heartfelt message contained in the original production now to a worldwide audience in their homes during a time of pandemic when loss of all kinds has been at the forefront of our collective thinking.
The webcast began with video footage of Bataille rehearsing a solo created for the work before her passing that would serve as the jumping off point and the anchor of Echo Mine. In front of the video screen it played on at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall, were Califone performing the opening music to the work. And in front of both was a solo female dancer who ducked and dove in and out of contemporary dance movement that appeared spurred on in its musicality and intent by Califone’s music.
Lincoln Hall’s wooden stage floor that dancers Meredith Dincolo, Jacqueline Burnett and Williams performed on was unvarnished, worn and speckled with remnants of red paint appearing symbolic of the stain of artistic blood given to vocation and audience by the trio and all the performers that came before them on that stage. Tension, emotional distress, and cold resolve infused Williams’ ritualistic choreography for the women in long skirts and bare feet who sagged and swayed to Califone’s moody 21st century prog rock meets Radiohead music.
Throughout the work archival video of Bataille at different stages of her life became more than a backdrop to the dancing, but rather became another integral performer in driving home its messages.
After a section in the work that took on a sort of Polynesian feel with hips shaking and pumping in choreography that oozed feminine marianismo, the piece produced its most poignant moment in a solo danced by Williams. To a voiceover recording of Bataille speaking about advice she had received from others about her cancer, and then to a Califone ballad, Williams began the solo by walking briskly to sit in a chair. She then aggressively and repeatedly brushed her hands and arms upward across her face and head. Then getting up from the chair, she walked a few steps forward and crumpled to the ground as if heavy with the memory of Bataille and her illness. It was an emotionally effective moment.
In the end Echo Mine v2 served to deliver that same sense of love and loss felt by its performers for a woman that meant so much to them as Echo Mine. The difference being in doing so, the work’s reflection on loss universal to all of us was delivered to a global audience. With adroit performances by the dancers and musicians recorded with care, Echo Mine v2’s webcast was another fitting and moving tribute to Bataille and her dance legacy.
Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.