As the audience filed into the Sprenger Theatre at the Atlas Performing Arts Center at INTERSECTIONS, Helanius J. Wilkins was already nonchalantly performing upstage, facing away from the audience. Bopping and rocking to the vaguely electronic track, audience members were unsure whether the performance had started. Little does the audience know that Wilkins has already exhausted himself prior to the opening of the house, and this performance relies on the body’s discoveries, as well as the mind’s discoveries, during the second wind. With nothing but a coat rack placed in the upstage right corner of the stage space, adorned with articles of clothing and a water bottle, Wilkins welcomed us into an intimate, safe space. Later on in the evening it would become clear to every audience member how essential a safe space is to the success of /CLOSE/R.
Wilkins has expertly crafted a personal exploration in the form of multiple dance and video vignettes. He invites the audience into the work at moments of humor as well as moments of vulnerability and discomfort. Through his use of repetition in movement and a genius blend of subtle and harsh gestural movements, he creates a solid choreographic base for the work. Through his honesty in speech, deliberate intonation, and ability to bridge the gap between internal and external performance qualities, he layers on an acting ability that resembles an organic bearing of one’s soul to an inner circle of friends. And through his adept film and sound skills, he creates satirical transitions for the work in the form of monologues to the camera, confessions to a higher power (be that power a pop star or a priest), and voiceovers of rhythmically pleasing prose and conversations with family members, which act as the cherry on top of the decadent sundae I’d like to call /CLOSE/R.
The technical elements of this work elevate the performance from a one-man show to an experience. The costume design by Roxann Morgan Rowley is a blend of specific and generic pieces, which perfectly echo the tone of the sections. Rowley’s work shines during the shedding section, in which Wilkins adds layers of clothing on top of his ornate ensemble that he wears at the top of the show, and eventually shakes and writhes the clothing off until he his completely nude. Ben Levine’s lighting design of the work is stellar, from the green overhead light in the opening section, to the crisp cues for the audience “dialogue” portions of the piece, to the gradually intense backlighting for the shedding section, and the red overhead light for the solo that closes out the performance. Sven Abow’s musical arrangement, composition, and performance are riveting, and mirror the tone of each section of movement. Thom Stromer and Sardar Aziz’s video work add a crisp and professional aesthetic that matches that of Wilkins’ overall aesthetic of the show. The cohesive feeling of these elements ties the performance together tightly, taking the audience on a journey on every level.
Wilkins successfully deconstructs his history as a dancer and choreographer up to this point in his life, and this audience member hopes that the discoveries made in this process will continue to inject themselves in his future works. This piece has an entry point for everyone, from the references to pop stars such as Prince, Madonna, and Beyonce, to the personal stories of familial cold remedies, to the parody of master classes that resembles a fresh take on the Terrence McNally play Master Class, each audience member’s entry point will be different and that is the beauty of dance theatre that verges on performance art. Audience members expressed their feelings on the performance with such words as, “metamorphosis,” “unorthodox,” “raw,” and “satirical.” In the words of Helanius J. Wilkins, “Art is not this ego trip. It’s about connections.”
Connect with this performance tonight at 7:00 pm and treat yourself to a well-crafted evening of dance, laughter, and personal reflection.
Running Time: 50 minutes, with no intermission.
/CLOSE/R has one more performance TONIGHT March 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm at INTERSECTIONS at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H St NE, in Washington DC. Tickets for tonight’s performance of /CLOSE/R can be purchased online.
For more information about EDGEWORKS Dance Theater, visit their website Catch EDGEWORKS Dance Theater’s next performance, “Extreme Measures,” on Monday, June 3, 2013 at 6 pm on the John F. Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.