Audience members compared the studio space with an impromptu bar and strings of white lights strung along the open beams as something that might be seen in New York City, and the sunset as one similar to New Mexico.
The most significant problem was the audience's lack of distance from a finished piece like "Brodie's Introspection."
There, it was another 25 feet farther back from the artistry, and it's possible to see the choreography in perspective.
So, the balance becomes seeing works in progress, seeing works performed more intimately and seeing how dancers work, while losing what an audience is used to – the long view. There is a place for both, and it is to the audience's advantage to have both.
As artistic director Austin Hartel promised, audience members seated on ranked bleachers could see the strain of leveraged lifts and weight sharing partnering – the six-member pick-up troupe of five women and one man lifted each other in partnerships of twos.
The women climbed each other as whimsical animals out of curiosity in "Vastus Silvus (Vast Forest)," danced by Karen Bethel, Thyrsa Da Rosa Hartel, Rebecca Herrin, and Becca Schmedt. The audience could see the work of dance. "We need men," he noted in an earlier interview with The City Sentinel.
They could also see the grace of sculptural dance in "Brodie's Introspection," danced by Karen Bethel and Rebecca Herrin, the incredibly difficult work and balance in the sculptural partnering of "What's love got to do with it," danced by Christopher Castelberry and Becca Schmedt, and the controlled joy, especially by Castelberry, in the Western piece Untitled – still in progress, to music by ZZ Top, also danced by the Bethel, Herrin, Da Rosa Hartel, Schmedt and Lynna Schneider.
Hartel, hopes to use their rehearsal space as an alternative performance space for their studio.
He thanked patrons Magnolia Building owners Chris and Meg Salyer for the use f the space, and an anonymous patron for providing part of the stage and audio equipment.
The contemporary dance company presented four works choreographed by Hartel in their studio performance space, where they also rehearse.
"Many, many companies perform in that kind of space that is pretty much a bare stage, with minimally produced dances, allowing people to see dance up close and more personally in a more relaxed environment.
(Choreographers) Alwin Nikolais and Murray Lewis had a studio performance space dance laboratory in New York that gave people the chance to experiment with dance. Oklahoma City doesn't have such a place."
Hartel's choreography was described as "physically dynamic, humorous and viscerally exciting" in the group's press release.
In an interview with the Sentinel, Hartel was asked, what do you mean by visceral involvement?
"When I choreograph, my purpose is to reach an unconscious physical response with the audience, to get them to breathe with you. I'm not necessarily looking for a response from the intellect.
"If you move people that way, you're probably moving people spiritually. People come in having difficulties. I would rather than their having gone through something heavy, that they go away from the show feeling uplifted."
What influences your contemporary dance choreography?
"I got my first professional job at 16 with a classical ballet company, and from there I went to Pilobolus (dance company, where he was a soloist and co-choreographer for five years). I was influenced by many other sources in my choreographing of 20 years."
Hartel is also coordinator of the Modern Dance Program at the University of Oklahoma.
What is sculptural dance?
The goal would be two dancers moving as one in a very shape oriented dance that is like liquid Sculpture (sic). As if Rodin sculptures came to life.
Their next Magnolia Building Performance, in collaboration with Alexa Fioroni, is scheduled for Dec. 3-4.