“Drink wine. Eat soup. Ask questions.” These are choreographer Cid Pearlman’s instructions to the audience before curtain at Economies of Effort: 3. These words are far from the soothing “silence your cellphones and locate the nearest emergency exit” that we’ve come to expect at the kickoff of a dance performance, and serve to set the tone for the entertaining and provocative experience that is to come.
The initial two-weekend-long run of the production at Felix Kulpa Gallery in Santa Cruz (the company moves to the Joe Goode Annex, San Francisco, in April) takes place in a courtyard bristling with fanciful fountains and sculptures made of found objects. The backdrop includes, among other objects, half-melted vintage Apple computers, a phone booth that looks suspiciously like the scene of a crime, and a PG&E utility pole resting at a graceful angle against the gallery fence. Much of the hardware is the handiwork of Robbie Schoen, sculptor, gallery director, and Cid Pearlman accomplice on this and other projects. The area is also strewn about with plywood boxes constructed by the dancers themselves in Economies of Effort:1, an earlier incarnation of this performance series.
At the top of the show, Pearlman’s company of 15 dancers disperses to various corners of the sculpture garden and gallery to engage each other in mysterious and intriguing rituals. Between outbursts of dance, they take turns chopping vegetables and stirring the soup in a stockpot simmering on a burner in the garden.
The audience is invited to wander.
In one spot, dancers haul each other up to kiss the bright light at the top of a sagging street lamp. In another, a sextet of women repeatedly slams into a gallery wall, exploring it, scaling it, attacking it in impressive unison. Elsewhere, a quartet nuzzles and nudges a woman on top of a card table. At first the action seems playful. But when the group starts sloshing a basin of water over the woman's head, thoughts of waterboarding come to mind.