Wire Monkey creates Short Circuits
by Karen Nelson
by Jerry Roberts
It happens all the time. You don't know you need something until you see it at a yard sale. For Saliq Francis Savage, the find was some scaffolding, thrown in with the usual pots and pans in need of new homes. Savage waited about a day before succumbing, but having loved tree climbing and similar physical activity from an early age, he ultimately couldn't resist the opportunity to acquire his very own heavy-duty climbing apparatus.
a few years later, he and partner Jennifer Polins have put the scaffolding
to good use as the stage set for their Holyoke-based dance company,
Wire Monkey Dance, which has produced about a piece a year since its
founding in September 1999. Last year's program, "Endangered
Species," was featured in the Massachusetts International Festival
of the Arts, to which Wire Monkey has been invited again this year.
The choreographers decided to work separately this time, rather than collaboratively as in the past, and they have taken quite distinct approaches to making a creative statement about "short circuits" in today's world. Hence the division of the program into Savage's "X-bar," a piece for three men, and Polins' "Bending Steel" for three women.
The three men's story of intersecting lives unfolds against a video backdrop created from animations of recent photos taken in Palestine that the father-son team of Paul and Joshua Boliver of Holyoke have composited with photos of 3-year-olds from that city. "We have to have more than one focus, not just think about those close to us, but also about the rest of the world," Paul Boliver says, in explaining the role of the video.
For Polins' piece, Katz is using his own recorded and live cello and ukelele playing, mixed with singing and a variety of prerecorded natural sounds. The music for Savage's piece is entirely recorded, employing sounds from the environment, commercial sound effects and CD samples. "I use these things for their energy and association value," Katz explains, the idea being to evoke the atmosphere in which residents of Palestine wake up in the morning, cope with a day's worth of hassles and tension, and then return home to unsettled dreams.
To tell the story of his three characters' uncomfortably linked lives, Savage takes advantage of the scaffolding's dual function as a mobile stage set - the structure is on wheels - and as a foundation for movement that allows arms to have as much importance as legs in supplying motive power. The men in the story have to get themselves to work each day, which for the Arabs means enduring humiliating, sometimes impassable checkpoints, and for the Jew means being constantly on edge. The scaffolding is by turns home and outside world.
Wire Monkey rehearses in a theater on Cabot Street in Holyoke originally built for the workers of the Farr Alpaca Company weaving factory, in a building now occupied by the Paper City Brewery. Savage and Polins cleared out the massive amount of old equipment, vehicles and forgotten junk being stored in the theater to make space for something new, which certainly seems in keeping with their artistic mission as they put the final touches on "Short Circuits."
Wire Monkey will perform "Short Circuits: Dances on Scaffolding" at the Northampton Center for the Arts, 17 New South St., at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26 and Nov. 1 and 2, and Sunday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15; $10 for students and seniors. For reservations and information, call 1-800-224-6432, or log on to www.wiremonkeydance.com.