Over the next four weeks, the Felix Kulpa Gallery will blur the lines between visual, musical, kinetic, and even culinary arts, as it hosts choreographer Cid Pearlman’s latest reimagining of the divide between performer and audience.
“This is living art to me,” says gallery director, Robbie Schoen. “It moves on its own.”
Pearlman has designed “Economies of Effort 3” to go beyond the typical notions of what a dance show can be.
“We’re even planning to make soup,” says Pearlman, “So when dancers aren’t dancing, they may sit down and make soup.”
It’s all part of her larger creative philosophy, Pearlman says.
“I want the dances I make to show the complexity of the world and the people in it. It’s how we continue to grow audiences for live performance.”
Her vision fits into a maker movement that encourages open access to art: “People want to know about the process and be in the same room with it,” says Pearlman. “The closer they can get to us, the more permeable the membrane is, so there’s not a fourth wall. They’re with us.”
And they will get close, Schoen says. “People are falling and jumping. They’re swinging their limbs around. You’re within a fraction of an inch.”
Schoen and Pearlman have collaborated in the past, working together on “Economies of Effort 1,” and he’s thrilled to continue the conversation they began then about creativity and agency. In a slightly ironic nod to the name, “Economies of Effort 3” is free, although audience members are encouraged to reserve a space in advance, as the gallery can only accommodate 35 guests at a time.
“I’ve always been interested in interdisciplinary work,” says Pearlman. “In building that first piece, dancers basically created their own worlds, so we had control over the lighting, props and sound throughout. We were able to be creative and self-sufficient.”
The results can be seen in photographs from past shows covering the gallery walls, where the choreography included dancers constructing their own staging with power tools.
Using the Felix Kulpa’s indoor and outdoor sculptures (which include a converted telephone booth and junked television sets), Pearlman says, was a natural next step.
“I wanted to do something immersive and site-specific this time, as well as something really accessible to the audience. We’ve spent the last two months in the gallery creating micro-spaces throughout, so they’ll be able to move around inside and outside,” says Pearlman. “There will be more than one thing going on at any one time. [The audience] will have the freedom to choose their own path.”
In placing dancers within the confines of a gallery, even one with a range of architectures, she hopes to challenge the notion that dance is ephemeral.
“I want to make the labor of dance visible, and to question the idea that it’s more temporary and less tangible than other art forms.”
One of Pearlman’s dancers and collaborators, Collette Kollewe, says the audience will get to tour the performance the way they would tour a gallery, which will make the dancers’ movements more relatable.
“The objects we’re interacting with are extremely recognizable to the audience. They might not have a giant box in their house, or use a ladder the way we do,” she says. “But up close, they can imagine what it’s like to move with these limited resources in this limited space. They get to walk through it.”
Fifteen dancers, ages 22 to 66, comprise “Economies of Effort 3.” Pearl takes pride in the fact that their body types vary and their movement shifts all over the map between hard and soft, fast and slow, electric and deliberate.
She cites her background in punk rock and Aikido as fueling her creative and kinetic language.
“My work can have a darkness and thick physicality, but there’s also an inherent optimism to it,” she says. “I have a lot of faith in people, that given the right motivation and information, they’ll do the right thing.”
What has surprised her about collaborating with Schoen and the dancers at the Felix Kulpa Gallery is the endless opportunity to create micro-worlds of movement and meaning. What has surprised Schoen is the sheer joy of collaboration.
“It really turns me on,” he says. “I’m doing things I’ve always wanted to do. It makes me want to get up early and move.”
7:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m., March 17-20, 24-27. Felix Kulpa Gallery, 107 Elm St., Santa Cruz. Reservations suggested and entry is limited to 35 people per performance. cidpearlman.org.