The Assembly has brought together two dancer/choreographers to lead five dancers plus two musicians in transforming the 10,000-square-foot Westside Museum into a playground of sound and movement. RECESS, which will be performed for one night only on September 21, is an evening-length improvisational score that aims to blur the boundary between rehearsal and performance, structure and spontaneity.
"Megan Guise and Jobel Medina are the two co-composers, as we're calling them," said Lara Wilson, creative director and co-founder of the Assembly. "They have given us loose instruction, concepts and rules to follow in rehearsals leading up to the performance, but once we begin, there is no hierarchy among the performers." Guise, an alumna of OC School of the Arts, and Medina both studied dance at Cal State Long Beach and will perform in RECESS, which kicked off with a sense of play.
"One thing they've reiterated to us is that we dancers are all composing the work as it unfolds, so there is a lot of listening and watching to assess what the space needs—more or less motion, a different quality, stillness, closeness, pure movement, etc.," said Wilson, who is also performing.
"To create the score, Megan and Jobel conducted many 'sessions' in our rehearsals during which we'd interact with different props according to certain rules; embody certain adjectives or nouns—I was a thirsty, curvy queen at one point."
The improvisations of rehearsal led to guidelines and sections, kind of like a net for a high-wire act, but no predetermined form for the performance itself. While much of the experimentation was scrapped, it heightened the dancers' ability to play off each other and make split-second decisions. What did work became building blocks of the overall structure for RECESS, employed in a loose order or even overlapping.
"The musicians will also be responding to our movements," said Wilson, "and we'll be taking cues from them." Guitarist Jeff Livingstone and composer/sound artist Zachary Kenefick will create the evening's aural score, adding pre-recorded snippets as RECESS develops within the giant Westside Museum.
While the one-time sail manufacturing warehouse with its 30- to 40-foot ceilings could overwhelm, attendees are invited right into the playground, along with adult perks: beer, wine, cocktails and small plates by the Boathouse Collective will be for sale. "It's up to each audience member [where to view the show]," said Wilson. "We'll provide at least two rows of seating on the ground floor, so those seated will likely remain where they are. But there are good views to be had from walking or changing perspective, as in a gallery or museum. And I'm especially excited about the overhead view," from a mezzanine that runs the full length of the building.
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So spectators will be as close as they wish to dance artists Haihua Chiang, Lenin Fernandez, Hannah Frankel, and Joey Navarrete, who, along with Guise, is making his debut collaboration with the Assembly. "The dancers are all trained in improvisational techniques," said Wilson. "But we come from different backgrounds and have very different movement styles. In that sense, we are really an "assembly" of dance artists and relied on our three-month process to reach a cohesive, communal place."
RECESS embodies the Assembly's desire to develop local choreographers and collaborate across media in unconventional spaces. "We've also had to remind ourselves to lighten up at certain points when things didn't work, and to return to the sense of play that was our initial concept." Merde, yes.
RECESS, by the Assembly, at Westside Museum, 729 Farad St., Costa Mesa; theassemblydance.co. Thurs., Sept. 21. 8 p.m. $12-18.