Seeking truth
20 Moons Dance Co. creates weekend-long shared experience, "What is True?"

Seeking truth

20 Moons Dance Co., above, will present "What is True?" at the Arts Center this weekend, from sunset Fri., Nov. 16 to sunrise, Sun. Nov. 18./ Courtesy photo.

Stew Mosberg - 11/15/2018

Not long after 20 Moons Dance Co. was founded in 2012, Co-Director Anne Bartlett mused about what lay ahead. “We have come together in this moment in time with a desire to explore new territory in dance, movement and performance art; to push our own edges and expand the repertoire of what’s possible with movement art in Durango,” said.

Since then, the troupe’s performances, collaborative dance events and community productions have stretched those dreams into reality. 20 Moons’ latest endeavor may yet be one of its most ambitious, and ironically, it is less about dance than collective exploration.

From sunset on Fri., Nov. 16 until sunrise on Sun., Nov. 18, 20 Moons dancers will take over the Barbara Conrad Gallery at the Durango Arts Center. They are inviting anyone in the community to participate in an organic, loosely structured examination of “What is True?” The question also happens to be the title of the 38-hour continuous undertaking.

It is the company’s ostensible care for the community that was the origin of the idea. Locals of all ages can come and go at their convenience or stay through the entire happening. Attendees will be welcome to participate as viewers or to actively engage by moving, writing, speaking, resting, listening or sharing thoughts on the key question.

“How long do we spend exploring a concept; an hour?” muses 20 Moons Music Director Jeroen van Tyn. Further explaining the event’s rationale, van Tyn reckoned that with a day and a half to dig into the subject, the experience – sometimes verbal, sometimes visual, sometimes written, sometimes silent – will provide an open-ended answer.

It isn’t a debate, he cautioned, but a chance to explore one’s own point of view as much as other people’s. Given the current political and social environment and the questioning of what is true and what is false, “fake news” notwithstanding, the timing couldn’t be more fitting.

As people enter the DAC, a 20 Moons member will be on hand to provide “easy-to-follow instructions” so visitors enter the space with clarity and intention. As appropriate and at intervals, musicians Jon Bailey  and van Tyn will create a “live sound tapestry” using violin, drums and/or electronic keyboard. There is no planned score, just improvised music.

Dancer Katie Clancy described the loose construct as akin to a mandala sand painting, an additive process, that evolves as it goes. “‘What is True’ is a meditative process rather than a performance,” she remarked.

The end result is meant to be ephemeral in design, leaving a lasting impression on the creators and spectators but only a collective memory.

The gallery will be segmented into a specific space for the various activities; large sheets of blank paper will be mounted to the walls where written words and thoughts can be posted. Mats for sleeping will be available for those wishing to rest or even stay the night; doors will close at 11 p.m. and reopen at 6 a.m. Attendees can otherwise come and go as they please, join in meditation, dance (to their own drummer) or engage as they see fit.

If all this sounds something straight out of the “Happenings” of the 1960s, it isn’t far off. For those not familiar with that art form of the idealistic Age of Aquarius, it combined elements of dance, theater, music, poetry and visual art that obfuscated the boundaries between life and art, leading to new methods of artistic expression.

“The line between the Happening and daily life should be kept as fluid and perhaps indistinct as possible; a revolution in the conception of art making, enticing artists to consider and re-imagine audiences as part of their work,” Allan Kaprow, one of the originators of Happenings, said in 1966.

Co-Director Bartlett concurs and looks forward to what may evolve from the event. She wonders how Durango artists will interpret the experience and move toward new horizons. She and her 20 Moons colleagues expect it will  also provide future interpretive and in spirational dance performances.

Elsa Jagniecki, of Heirlooms, and Marje Cristol, from Linnaea Design, were enlisted to create the most conducive atmosphere for the space. “We will be setting up a very airy, organic and minimalist site to move around in, sit and lay down in; mostly bedding, rugs, pillows and throws,” explained Jagniecki. “There will be candle light, paper lanterns and fairy lights to help create a subdued atmosphere for meditative incubation, and introspection.”

20 Moons Co-Director Jessica Perino shared her vision of the event by remarking, “My hope is that people will come, give themselves permission to explore and play, and then, I know, inevitably, something will happen. We can’t know what that something is yet. That’s what’s so great about the whole thing – we’re opening up to the mystery.”