Penumbra was an experimental ballet performance which responded to live music and audio/visual as well as atmospheric installation artwork created and presented by a collection of independent artists who mined their darker instincts for lushness and beauty. Designed to engage multiple senses, the show was an unconventional collaborative performance curated by Unraveled in order to bring artists together who might not otherwise find one another.
The two-hour continuous dance performed by ballerinas Marina Kec, Jenna Frome, Caitlin Dagle, and Nicole Battestilli responded to two live music performances by local Philadelphia bands — Ecstatic Vision, who make it their mission to pummel eardrums with beefy sheets of psychic rapture; and Canada, who snake through time signatures and vibrant tones to weave a lush aural tapestry. The audience was seated between the dance at one end of the room and the live music at the other, strategically positioned at the center of the conversation. We fundamentally dislike traditional formats of audience viewing experiences and therefore built a variety of different seating options and plenty of room for the public participants to walk around and get up close to the performers. We see their movement as an additional performance element, informing and inspiring the bands and dancers to adapt and respond.
The two live music performances were separated by an audio/visual installation tailored to kinky and manic post-punk synth tunes designed by Unraveled Artist Entertainment. For Penumbra, Entertainment chose to present the concept of non-presence as an intentional out of body experience. An atmospheric installation to bring the walls around these performances to life was designed by Unraveled Founder and independent installation artist Farida Amar assisted by Kaylee Bugg and Karna Ray.
Penumbra appeared only once under the Capricorn moon on August 9th, 2014 in AUX, a black-box space owned by the artist-run space Vox Populi, in Philadelphia.
All promotional images photographed and edited by Callan Kapush. Layout and type design by Farida Amar. Limited edition poster (below) printed in Los Angeles.
Images below taken by Bill Hebert from one of the Penumbra rehearsals. The ballerinas had been rehearsing twice a week for six months and on this day they were able to rehearse in person with Ecstatic Vision for the first and only time before the show.
“The pieces we choreographed for Penumbra teeter on the edge of classical and contemporary ballet. We very frequently deconstructed and rearranged classical ballet movement vocabulary to better complement the music and overall aesthetic of the show. I feel that this had to happen in order to achieve a more powerful expression of female sexual energy. The beauty of ballet largely comes from its incredible control and physical sacrifice. We had to shatter the glass to expose our softer, more fluid sides. I think audiences will be pleasantly surprised by our work. Viewers’ expectations may be based on familiar ballet stereotypes – pink, tutus, tight hair, giggling girls – but what they will encounter is a more confident, sensual interpretation of traditional classical ballet movement.” — Marina Kec, Penumbra ballerina
“In Ballet’s purest form, it is used to showcase the body in ways that people find majestic. It is used to exemplify grace and poise. In Penumbra, the choreography takes a look at the side of us that wants to break apart the standard and find ballet’s more contemporary form. What happens when ballet is set the melodic tones of heavy rock music instead of the perfectly arranged classical music? Penumbra happens of course. In this experiment, we look to our shadows to inform movement and pushes the dance into a more experimental realm. Resulting in a weaving and highly entertaining new look on an ancient art form.” — Caitlin Dagle, Penumbra Ballerina
“The show concept has been floating in and out of our conversations about Unraveled events since early 2013. I can’t remember where it came from, probably an external visual stimulus. Or from dream. Sometimes I look at objects or images like a chair in my house or a crack running through the concrete blocks under my feet and it sparks something within. We decided this would be a great adventure to share with Philadelphia – a city already booming with independent works of dance, theatre and music taking place amongst and within not only traditional performing arts spaces but also on the streets amongst the murals and in small experimental DIY venues in someone’s basement.” — Farida Amar, Unraveled founder
All images below were taken by Nick Rayment. All videos below were made by John and Kasey Breedlove as visualizations of Entertainment songs and were projected during the show as a digital manifestation of the band’s live presence.
Listen to more music from Canada, Entertainment + Ecstatic Vision: