By Steve Sucato
Outer space may be the final frontier, but it is the space we humans occupy on Earth that has inspired countless choreographers and their works. The latest to address that subject is choreographer Maree ReMalia, whose The Ubiquitous Mass of Us premieres June 14 as part of the New Hazlett Theater’s Community Supported Art performance series.
ReMalia — who also performs with the Staycee Pearl Dance Project — moved here in 2012. She was born in South Korea and raised in Medina, Ohio, where she began studying ballet at age 7. After high school, she apprenticed with Richmond Ballet and Florida’s Southern Ballet Theatre. She transitioned into modern- and contemporary-dance styles, and earned a graduate degree in dance at Ohio State University.
ReMalia says her return trips to South Korea — with its infamous DMZ border with North Korea — and the ongoing ruckus over the U.S./Mexico border, got her thinking about ways we claim geographic space. That led her to incorporate into the hour-long Ubiquitous Mass a multitude of other ideas on how humans take up space.
“We reflect issues of territory and question the bounds of our identities,” says ReMalia. “What are the myriad ways we can inhabit space and the spaces within the space?”
Set to an original soundscape by local musician David Bernabo (who also performs in the work), including music from his band Host Skull, Ubiquitous Mass is ReMalia’s first large-scale work. It was developed during a Kelly-Strayhorn Theater residency this past November.
Ubiquitous Mass, says ReMalia, is derived largely from improvisational exercises helped along by a movement process called “Gaga,” of which ReMalia is a practitioner. The work showcases nine diversely-skilled, multigenerational performers (including herself).
As seen in a video clip of November’s work-in-progress showing, the piece is a bit of a wild ride, running the gamut of mood and tone and full of quirky characters and humor. That was especially evident in a section ReMalia calls “The hot me box,” where the very territorial performers compete for a small area of the stage. Add a found-object set design by Blaine Siegel, and bold costuming by Rachel Vallozzi, and Ubiquitous Mass is sure to be a unique exploration of how we take up physical space.
This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper June 11, 2014. Copyright Steve Sucato.