Becca reviews 'Labyrinth' 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
The highly anticipated Sunday night premiere of “Labyrinth” at RMSC’s Strasenburgh Planetarium did not disappoint. Co-created by BIODANCE’s Missy Pfohl Smith and media artist W. Michelle Harris — who together presented the acclaimed “Anomaly” at the same venue in 2013 and 2016 — the multi-sensory show was performed to a full house on opening night.

Attendees are greeted in the lobby by the group of young singers who are part of the performance later on. Garbed in white, they slowly pick their way through a meditation labyrinth printed on cloth and spread out on the ground as notes played by a solo flautist floated through the space.

While nothing of the theme  was given away in the Fringe catalog’s description of the show, the subject matter is spelled out in the puzzle on the provided program. The title list of the show's different parts and cited imagery provide other hints. There are four more performances, so I don't want to give too much away.

Members of BIODANCE, Eastman School musicians, and youth singing group Lyric Voices worked together through seven enthralling movements, filling all senses with emotions connected with the theme: fear, anxiety, the feeling of helplessness, denial, urgency, resolve, and hope.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
In the first movement, projected stars wheel across the dome while below, dancers gracefully mirror the celestial movements, illuminating one another with small lights bound to their arms. This motion dissolves into the darkness, giving way to a discord of percussive tick-tocks and chimes, with two dancers moving beneath projections of a drastically shifting terrain.

Soon the company members make creative use beyond the small stage and the circular aisle around the star projector’s central hub. They shift more intimately toward the audience by using gymnast-like movements to occupy a few front seats that ring the space.

Like klaxons, heavier percussion and saxophone notes usher in rapidly jolting gestures, dancers rush to and fro in the walkways behind the dome’s screen, which is unexpectedly translucent under the right lighting.

Without warning, a laser projection floats low above the center of the space, with blue and green, oil-and-water shapes shifting like smoke on a flat plane of light above the dancers. This plane begins to twist and bend, adding a threatening, roiling tone to the space, and company members at times huddle together under umbrellas or blankets, their terrified and beleaguered expressions watching the sky.


In the next movement, a solo flautist stands piping under projected imagery of a leaf canopy, while dancers slowly begin passing and pulling a green cord, winding it around their bodies into a tangled web of connectivity.

The show concludes on a gentle, sacred-feeling note, with all members of the company — dancers, singers, and musicians — holding hands and moving in a line that doubles back on itself, as if walking the labyrinth. A projection above resembles foliage floating on flowing water, the company eventually ringing the space, held hands raised high. Is this triumph or tribute to what has been lost? Time will tell.

An extended version of this review, with spoilers, will appear in print on Wednesday, September 20. Until then, go see the show for yourself. "Labyrinth" will be performed again on Monday, September 18, through Thursday, September  21, 6 p.m., at RMSC's Strasenburgh Planetarium. $12. Appropriate for all ages.


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