Dance review: SICK, Midsumma Festival, 2022

Being offered foam earplugs at the door was the first hint that the upcoming performance was going to be a surprise. Why would anyone need earplugs for what was billed as a dance collaboration?

Two 1970s Hammond organs sat at one end of the room, and a large prop depicting a picture of urinals at the opposite end. Nice set.

The marketing material explained that performer and co-choreographer, Ryan New, is an autistic person and promised “complicated reviews imbuing the notions and expectations of performers with disabilities”.

When New and fellow choreographer and performer Phillip Adams entered the space, they wore exaggerated costumes, including blue ballet tights, rhinestone and studded biker jackets, and large tulle ruffles around the waist. neck. They then relied heavily on Hammond organs to create a breathtaking cacophony of scrambled noises. Unfortunately, this noise was not momentary and the use of earplugs soon became apparent. There should have been a warning for those with sensory issues.

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What ensued for the next 50 minutes was a bewildering combination of dance moves and weird actions. New and Adams indeed have “mismatched bodies” as the flyer states, which made them at least interesting to watch, and the towering presence of third performer Bo Svoronos, towering over New and Adams, proved captivating. .

However, there didn’t seem to be a common thread linking the soundtrack and frenetic activity to what was promised in the ad, which spoke of the beauty and awkwardness of moving and failing and seeking change. perceptions around the abilities of artists – and all others – with a disability.

There’s definitely dark humor in the production (Svoronos casually leaned over at one point and used one of his powerful hands to quickly slice a ceramic gnome in half). My neighbor laughed loudly several times, clearly enjoying the absurdity of it all.

In all, SICK relied too heavily on the use of Hammond organs in a very unmusical and unsettling way. The appearance of props – including buckets swinging wildly on ropes, stuffed animals, a set of ceramic garden gnomes that the performers began to smash and a huge papier-mâché-style gnome head – was surreal. .

As the show’s flyer attests, for New, “sick” implies an impulse to act out of the ordinary with one’s body and thoughts. In this regard, the show hit the mark – there was nothing ordinary about it.

Unfortunately, the lasting impression was confusion and a headache from those damn organs.

Presented by theater people at Temperance Hall as part of Midsumma 2022
Choreography & Interpretation: Ryan New, Phillip Adams and Bo Svoronos
Design of sets and costumes: Jake Preval

SICK took place from February 9 to 12, 2022.