Local artists explore emotions—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in new dance theater showcase
This isn’t the first time that Per Haaland and Carol Fields have collaborated on performance art, but it might be their best effort yet.
Haaland—a local dance theater stalwart—has produced a provocative piece, entitled “But I Will Stay,” which focuses on the idea of attaining enlightenment and accepting emotion. Whereas Fields has created a multimedia performance, called “Exit Through a Revolving Door,” which presents the joys and perils of working as both an artist and in the tech industry. This weekend, the pair will present their united artistic visions in two showings at The 418 Project in Downtown Santa Cruz.
“But I Will Stay” is the story of an enlightenment-seeking meditator who confronts his unruly feelings, which are physically represented by fellow actors on-stage. The resulting mayhem promises to be both humorous and thought-provoking.
“One of the important things for me in this piece is the idea [that] you have to accept your emotions,” says Haaland. “It will be very entertaining.”
For 20 years, Haaland has made a living as a practitioner of Rolfing, a holistic form of therapy that focuses on the manipulation and movement of soft tissue in the human body. He believes that there is a synergy between his day job and his artistic path.
“Rolfing came out of the [human] potential movement, which is the idea beyond just working with the body like in physical therapy,” explains Haaland. “Rolfing has that inherent vision of wanting people to reach their potential, and that physical well-being has a positive effect on your psychological state and your spiritual development.”
His show highlights emotions ranging from fear to joy. Haaland prefers to call them “affects”—a psychological term used for feelings experienced in response to stimulation. The affects and their accompanying facial features, gestures and behaviors are the basis for the performance.
“A lot of the work I do in dance and theater, I think is informed by my background,” says Haaland. “I’ve had these two parallel careers—one in the performing arts and one in the healing arts.”
The second half of this weekend’s showcase will feature Fields’ “Exit Through a Revolving Door.” Like Haaland, her day job offers grist for the artistic mill. A longtime worker in the tech industry who is currently unemployed, she took advantage of her free time to produce the show. Though a work of fiction, she says that there’s very little in the show that’s not real.
Her protagonist is Haven Wu, an unemployed Silicon Valley executive, who decides to take a long-yearned-for plunge into the arts. Haven sets the tone for the show by describing her Silicon Valley job: “It was one of those bad relationships you get through. I was an out-of-the-box artist surrounded by between-the-lines engineers.”
The piece began as a short story, but after a friend commented that “the story dances,” Fields turned it into a full-fledged performance encompassing aerial dance, theater, and photography, with animated portrayals of lucid dreaming—all set to the ongoing narration of the original short story.
“I’m a choreographer,” explains Fields. “And what does a choreographer do? They take a snapshot of an emotion.”
The visual components capture those emotions while the narration tells a back-story of power, sex, and money that exists not just in the corporate world, but in the arts as well.
When Haven takes a job with an avant-garde dance troupe in San Francisco, she encounters a choreographer who Fields portrays as an octopus, due to his strange way of greeting people.
“This guy, when he meets people—say a dancer that’s on the ground warming up—and he lays on top of them and presses every part of his body against theirs, like an octopus,” says Fields. When asked if the metaphor also applies to the corporate world, Fields breaks into laughter while nodding her head vigorously.
In addition to their run at The 418 Project, the animated portion of Fields’ production and “But I Will Stay” will both be featured in this summer’s first-annual Santa Cruz Fringe Festival.
Following Saturday’s performance, Haaland will fly to Los Angeles to attend the Awareness Film Festival for a screening of his new short film, “A Conversation with Ubud Adha,” a humorous mockumentary about a spiritual guru. Fields believes the role is perfect for Haaland.
“Per is an amazing person and artist,” says Fields. “Many are drawn to him and his art because of his kind, insightful and guru-like personality.”
“But I Will Stay” and “Exit Through a Revolving Door” will be performed at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5, at The 418 Project, 418 Front St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15/general, $10/students, seniors, children, and the unemployed. Photo Credit: Sal Ingram