The Hollow which opened last week at the Tek Box in Minneapolis is described as “A concept album performed live with movement and dance”. That sounds kind of out there doesn’t it? The show began life three years ago, with the music created by husband and wife team of Jenna Wyse and Joey Ford, who wrote and perform the music. Original attempts at mounting it were as an adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow but no matter how they tried to make that work in the words of one of it’s creators, Tyler Michaels King, “The Hollow wanted to remain headless”. And so, other than a few lyrics pulled from different portions of the Washington Irving tale, there is nothing left to remind us of the connection except the feeling inherent in autumn that seems to be shared between them. Well, and the word Hollow. Now it rejects any sense of traditional narrative, it is on one hand a concert and on the other hand a series of modern dance movements designed and performed by the other married team of creators Emily Michaels King and Tyler Michaels King. Did I scare you there? Maybe there is a little more left of the Headless Horseman than we thought. But trust me there is no need to be frightened. I understand your apprehension, I had some too.
The Extent of my exposure to modern dance is that I’ve seen Wim Wender’s Documentary film Pina, which was really interesting. But that’s it, that’s what I know, so next to nothing. In fact until I saw this show I’d completely forgotten I’d seen that film. Now, I knew going into tonight that I was going to enjoy the music. I’d been able to attend a sneak preview of some of the music in a paired down version a couple of weeks ago. I knew I loved the music and vocals of Wyse and Ford, but I wasn’t sure how I would react to the dancing. Let’s get the scary part out of the way first so we can relax. The dancing isn’t boring, the dancing isn’t silly, the dancing isn’t pretentious. The dancing is astonishing in it’s precision, breathtaking in it’s athleticism, and alluring in it’s seductiveness. There is a moment towards the end of the show where the movements of the Dancers is so perfectly timed with a lighting effect that they actually appear to be levitating, it is one of several moments of actual awe that the evening afforded.
The music was created and performed by Wyse and Ford, who are accompanied onstage by three vocalists Annie Schiferl, Antonia Perez and Jennifer LeDoux, drummer Marcus Bohn, and on Marimba Matt Silverberg. The Musicians are tight and the Vocals sounded amazing if not always clearing understandable, one of the dangers of performing unknown songs live. That didn’t affect my enjoyment of the music, I caught most of the lyrics and as I stated before there is really no traditional narrative. I found that I understood what I needed of the words and found the music more about the mood, tone and themes rather than the explicit details. I love the sound of Wyse and Ford’s voices together and that is quite enough to carry you through the piece. As focus drawing as the Dancing is, at times I struggled where to look as the singers are also very engaging. Jenna Wyse particularly cannot help but express her joy at performing this music, and joy can be a very captivating quality.
The Hollow is anything but hollow, and yet, it is also hollow. Full of beautiful music and movement that is filled with emotions. But what those emotions represent is left to each individual member of the audience. It gives you so much yet leaves itself open to be filled and interpreted by our own experiences. My mind initially approached the program as it would any other show, trying to discern the narrative even though I was aware there wasn’t an concrete story being told. Our minds are conditioned to approach things in a certain fixed way and gravitates towards that automatically. So engrossing is the program the elaborate and precise nature of the movement that I quickly lost myself in what I was seeing. When I did that and stopped trying to actively project a narrative, however simple onto what I was seeing, that is when I started find myself and my experiences onstage. Included along with the program is a booklet of the songs lyrics. I’ve glanced it, but want to peruse it later after the evening has settled a little. I don’t want any detail within to contradict my interpretation just yet. I will enjoy it in a little while as the poetry it is.
AS for what I brought to the show, that is for me, as it should be for everyone. My sharing with you my thoughts on what the show meant or was about might hinder your minds creativity as you experience it for yourself. I know from speaking with the Michaels Kings after the show that they have, as you would expect their own motivations for the movements. But, it is very much intended for the audience to bring what they carry with them. What was unique about tonight in my experience was being allowed to tell myself my own story through their work, rather than simply being told one. A stronger degree of connection was formed with the performers as you feel you have a role to play besides that of appreciation. This may sound challenging, but it isn’t. It is a uniquely freeing experience. We all interpret it for ourselves and we can chose to share that or keep it to ourselves. There are no right or wrong interpretations. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
This was my first experience at the Tek Box. It seemed to be what I would classify as a performance space. The staff sold concessions and Izzy’s before the show and chatted with patrons until the house opened. There was not much in terms of set but impressive effects and transitions were created simply through the lighting designed by Karin Olson. the clean Intimate space helped create that essential link between the artists and the audience, which is exactly the right environment for this show.
The Hollow plays through Oct. 20th at the Tek Box in Minneapolis tickets and more information about the show are available at http://www.trademarktheater.org/