World Premiere of ‘Mash Up Body’ takes a sampling approach to dance


Photo courtesy of Kate Watson-Wallace/anonymous bodies.

Photo courtesy of Kate Watson-Wallace/anonymous bodies.

By Steve Sucato

For her latest dance work, Mash Up Body, Philadelphia-based choreographer Kate Watson-Wallace took a page from the contemporary-music playbook. Watson-Wallace worked with the processes of sampling, remixing and layering ideas and materials to create a 45-minute multimedia performance installation. Her troupe, anonymous bodies, will premiere the show April 5 and 6 at the Alloy Studios.

“It’s a meditation on identity and presentation,” says Watson-Wallace by phone from New York, where the troupe, including Pittsburgh’s Jasmine Hearn, was putting the finishing touches on the piece.

Watson-Wallace is no stranger to Pittsburgh dance audiences. Her work and that of anonymous bodies, which she co-directs with Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, has been seen locally at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, both at annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival and in 2009’s shopping-themed work, Store. Watson-Wallace has also created works for Philadelphia dance companies BalletX and Carbon Dance Theatre.

Photo courtesy of Kate Watson-Wallace/anonymous bodies.

Photo courtesy of Kate Watson-Wallace/anonymous bodies.

Set to an electronic composition by Christopher Sean Powell, which he will perform live, Mash Up Body is a work in two halves. Watson-Wallace describes the first half as a dance that is beautiful and moody like a David Lynch film, and the second half as a comedic comment on the first.

Primarily improvised, the show’s second half deconstructs the opening dance, poking fun at it and the conventions of, and audience assumptions about, contemporary dance. The dancers direct each other in dismantling and remixing the original dance, changing everything from its set and costumes to its lighting.

The intimate work (which contains adult language and possibly nudity) plays with layering media images, sampling movement from a Madonna video and from well-known German choreographers Pina Bausch and Sasha Waltz. In addition, Mash Up Body looks at how we try on different identities in our modern lives, from our everyday personas to our identities at work or on social media. The dancers will manifest some of that onstage by trying to do multiple things at once and, at times, trying to “become” a fellow dancer.

“I am definitely interested in order and chaos on stage,” says Watson-Wallace.

Kate Watson-Wallace/anonymous bodies present Mash Up Body, 8 p.m. Fri., April 5, and 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., April 6. The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship. $10-35. 412-363-3000 or kelly-strayhorn.org.

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper April 3, 2013. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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