COURTESY CARL HEFNER / IONA
Maile Baran creates a heart with a toss of sand. Baran performs in IONA Contemporary Dance Theatre's "Electric Blue," which explores spirituality in a beach setting.
You could call IONA's latest production, "Electric Blue," all wet. Moreover, one could say they're in over their heads. For once, however, this wordplay is simply descriptive.
Place: Hawaii Theatre
Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $25 to $45
Call: (808) 528-0506 or visit hawaiitheatre.com
"About four years ago, artistic director Cheryl Flaharty had a vision about creating a work that incorporated the sea as both a physical force and a spiritual presence," said Crystal Brewe, managing director of IONA Contemporary Dance Theatre. "And then the grandmother of one of the dancers died, and in the process of grieving, Cheryl was struck by the continuity of life, contrasted with the disruption of culture."
Flaharty, of course, is the wildly overtalented visionary behind IONA, a born choreographer and butoh-trained Jedi master at merging dance and spirituality. Like a sculptor, she sees the space as well as the form. An IONA production is far more than people in tights jumping around, although they do, of course, incorporate people in tights jumping around. Comes with the territory.
And so, "Electric Blue." Not the police motorcycle built by Harley-Davidson, but a performance piece that not only occurs on stage, it mandates that the dancers go to the beach and play in the sand, one could say.
Brewe intimated that "Electric Blue" uses the beach as a kind of metaphor, the cusp area between land and sea, the shadowland betwixt life and death, the lapping interplay between cultural traditions and the march of civilization, with a healthy dose of environmental awareness thrown in. Pretty heavy stuff for playing in the sand, but IONA generally makes these things fun to absorb.
COURTESY CARL HEFNER / IONA
"Electric Blue" has IONA dancers frolicking in water, sand, and, in this case, a bed. The performance runs at Hawaii Theatre.
And here's the ironic IONA moment for this production -- a performance at Kailua Beach Park was canceled due to sewage runoff in the water. The ocean, the bringer of life, was too dangerous to enter.
That the Hawaii beach sand was too dangerous to use in the theater also has a measure of irony. The world premiere of the entire work -- bits have been previewed on various beaches -- relies on 10 tons of sand imported from the mainland.
"It had to be pure and dust-free -- it pours like water at times in the piece -- and we brought it in over the last year, 56 bags a week, special-ordered through local hardware stores," said Brewe. "It fills the stage!"
The performances on the beach actually end with the performers diving into the ocean waves for a choreographed frolic. That requires a costume change, and -- clever costumery being another Flaharty/IONA signature -- makes a political point as well.
"So many cultures have been forced to turn away from their pasts. We even fly flags of forgotten kingdoms," said Brewe. "We even have mermaids who change into colonial whites."
"Electric Blue," whether presented on a sandy stage or a real beach, also features local environmental organizations. It's not by accident the work premieres on the same weekend as Earth Day 2006.
In addition to dancers and sand and water, the electric part probably refers to a film by Sergio Goes projected on stage and lit by ultraviolet lights to create an underwater effect.
We could say it Goes to show you, but that would be pushing the wordplay button once too often.