“Edge/PUBLIC,” a two-night multidisciplinary event in downtown Atlanta’s Woodruff Park, was part of the recently concluded “Off the EDGE” dance festival. But the project, curated by Paul Boshears, seemed more germane to the ongoing conversation about the temporary public site art of Flux Projects and the streetwise dance performances by gloATL.
The most successful pieces were those that engaged with the space. At the park’s southern end, circles — in the gazebo’s round shape, the metal grates around several trees and the Coca-Cola sign across the street — heightened the arcs and spins in Full Radius Dance’s work about surviving survival.
Jonah Hooper’s riveting, almost violent performance of “Voyant” benefited from its location in the gazebo. The elevated cylindrical space served as a mini-stage, and it complemented the circular movement in fellow Atlanta Ballet dancer John Welker’s choreography. Danced to Nina Simone’s version of “Sinnerman,” Hooper’s staccato movements embodied a man possessed. The piece enacted a crisis of the soul and ensuing self-transformation.
Artist Bernard Jackson — a great new talent — used the water wall in the park’s northern section to good effect in “Water Wall Tango.” In one sequence, performed to the sound of rushing water and Astor Piazzola’s “Concerto Pour Bandoneon,” a cluster of dancers clad in red, black and white, grouped in front of Jackson’s video piece on the Occupy Atlanta movement, spread across the terrace in full-out athletic movement and gorgeous lifts.
Artist Casey Lynch staged the building of a communal bonfire in the center of the southern part of the park. Another of the park’s circles, “Bon Fire” marked “Edge/PUBLIC’s” center of gravity. On the first night, visitors helped three men whom Lynch had employed to insert multicolored glow sticks into a tiered circular construction. The lights have a short life, and those who attended on the second night would see only the aftermath. That might have been conceptually satisfying for the artist, but it wasn’t much of an experience for the viewers, deprived of both the visual delight of the colored lights and the fun of interaction that the first-nighters enjoyed.
The Object Group, a troupe that mixes performance, tableau vivant, movement and sound, took over an empty store across the street from the park. The project had its moments: the desperate housewife in a bicycle helmet (below), amok
in the kitchen, was clever and amusing. Mostly, however, it seemed like an amateur version of Stanley Kubricks’s 1999 film “Eyes Wide Shut.” It was hard to know whether the actors were serious or playing the kitschy haunted house for laughs.
Staibdance’s work felt diffuse because it didn’t have a clearly defined performance space or theatrical lighting to bring it into focus. Even so, the series of vignettes, inspired by George Staib’s Armenian heritage and childhood in Iran, was a vital connector for the whole event. At intervals, a dozen or so dancers, women in 1960s- and ’70s-style skirts and men in vests and trousers, danced to the whirring Middle Eastern melodies and upstart backbeat of Nicholas Roubanis’ “Misirlou Twist.” The troupe’s Kathleen Wessel eventually led the audience through the park and into the nearby Rialto Center for the Arts.