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Chris Aiken and Ming-shen Ku: Chance Formation

Kaleidoscope Theatre, Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania.
February 3 and 4, 2006

A Review

Virginia Dillon and I went to this theatre to see a multimedia performance by Chris Aiken and the Taiwanese dancer, Ming-shen Ku. To me the star of the evening is the theater itself.

We found it by spotting the stage house, cubically silhouetted against the night sky. We could not really take in the external details of the structure. It was too dark. But stepping into the interior was like stepping into wonderland. The balance of curves and open space, the overlaying of metal, marble and glass, the inviting sweep of stairway that led us directly to the auditorium where the open curve of the continental seating continued the ambiance! “No seat shall be obstructed.” What a contrast to the stage smuggled into one end of the gymnasium whereon I performed here in I my undergraduate years!

What a wonderland in which to create! Stage dimensions most adequate, drapery well hung, a great cyclo, a midstage scrim (which I presume could be move upstage or down). How many lekos? Could an audience member count? Computerized projectors, more than one? Does Ursinus own that tiny camera that traced and projected the tiny car across the apron?

The evening opened with projections of moving and changing horizontal bars across the cyclorama, sending my mind reeling. But I crashed. With the exception of minute moments, the dancers (Chris Aiken and Ming-Shen Ku) seemed not to have a clue as to how to partner light. Neither seemed to realize how moving bars of light and dark could augment motion. They played a bit with shadow, a holdover from childhood.

Both dancers are good movers. Chis did an athletic solo against a panel of light projected onto the cyc, Ming-Shen, a lyric solo upstage of a pool, which reflected onto a panel behind her. (This technology evaded and intrigued me.) Both of these settings suggested unfulfilled interaction between human and circumstance. Properly lit as “just plain” dance, both solos would probably be more moving and less annoying to one who wanted to see more. The ballet of the “cordwood,” ultra post-modern, asked for patience, and the reappearance of the tiny giraffe that was a featured in the tiny truck sequence, tied the evening together.

The technical display was premier. Yau Chen and Gregory Scranton designed the videos, Dennis Malat the lighting, Perry Fertig the set (presumably including that reflecting pool), and Jon Brighton both video and sound.

Of course, I am ultra-critical, coming from whence I come. It could have been so much more moving aesthetically! BUT I am so very glad to know all this exists, because this theater can be a great asset to theater presentations and audiences.

Ruth Grauert, February 6, 2006 (Ursinus 1939)



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