Art, Dance, Our City, Went There

WENT THERE: VLA Dance presents Bare Velvet

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“We must connect with others.

We must connect to our environment and world around us.

We must trust that who we are is not what we are.

This mantra from Victoria Lynn Awkward, founder of VLA Dance, speaks to the nature of her latest show, Bare Velvet. The idea for the show comes directly from the name. 

“The title Bare Velvet emphasizes the barren nature of the space as well as the lack of the traditional proscenium stage elements – red velvet curtains, lighting, etc.” says Victoria. In addition the show incorporates the idea of persistence, and what it means to persist in a time when everything is changing faster and faster, all the time.Which makes it unusual that VLA decided to partner with BioMed Realty – a company that is in the business of driving technology forward. On the other hand, Victoria has always designed to make environment part of her work, beyond choreography alone, and so a real estate company is not such a strange fit after all. 

VLA’s last performance was at the Fountain Street Art Gallery, and during the intermission invited the audience to explore the gallery and surround themselves with art. This was a natural fit, so when she told me the next one would be in a business in Kendall Square I was intrigued. Once again, Victoria looked beyond the limitations and into the possibility. This was not just some corporate lobby – it was a blank canvas. 

“I thought it would be different working with BioMed Realty than it would be working with a gallery, but the personal connection was there in both experiences,” says Victoria.

 There was also a personal connection inherent to the space. It was relatively small, making for an intimate experience. Moreover, its centralized location with open windows led passersby to stop and watch the show, joining in an experience they may otherwise never have been aware of. Location, location, location.

As for the performance itself, there is a primality. Muted, earthy costumes and ambient music help to bring the audience in close. The dancers’ movements shift between smooth ease and convulsive despair. But underneath the chaos, there is a feeling of support. The dancers literally catch one another as they fall to the ground. The small venue increases the focus, allowing the articulation of each movement to carry more weight. There are moments when the silence is cut only by the creaking of the floor. There is a collective mood akin to hypnosis. 

And then there is Victoria herself. I love hearing what Victoria has to say about her work– especially with regard to themes like persistence through change — and then seeing these notions play out in her real life. Watching her grow as a choreographer and put on more events like this is encouraging and exciting. Whether it’s a show popping up somewhere I wouldn’t expect, or the fact that she is putting art into a world that does not always welcome it. While she’s certainly not doing it alone (credit to her mentor Heather Stewart, a New England-based choreographer originally from Canada, it wouldn’t exist without her.

So go on, connect with others, connect with your environment, your community. If you are interested in witnessing VLA Dance’s next performance, be sure to catch them November 22nd (performances at 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM) when they collaborate with Irresponsible Birds Poetry in conjunction with Boston Poetry Slam. An enduring presence in the Boston/Cambridge area, Victoria says that the performance with BSP will “utilize similar themes from Bare Velvet, but will be set to the poetry of Boston Poetry Slam.” You can also keep up to date on Victoria and company for 2020 and beyond at http://victoriaawkward.com.

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