The Loom Ensemble, a multi-tiered collective of dancers and musicians, both of whom have been doing both of those activities in full force, are about to release a recorded version on CD of their opera titled Erosion: A Fable. Though this is based on the staged version where the entire ensemble sings, this is a bit more representative of the suite they performed at the Vital Vox Festival as the paired-down Loom Trio. That same trio made up of composer and Loom co-founder Sasha Bogdanowitsch, and singer-dancers Raphael Sacks and Kate Hamilton had a few minutes to speak to The Glass about Thursday’s CD-release party for the Erosion CD (at Theaterlab, 357 West 36th, bet. 8th and 9th Aves.) as well as other cool things. BTW, you are invited to come down for this concert, and you can buy tickets for the CD release party by clicking here or on the link at the bottom.
CM: Can you talk about this CD release concert on Thursday?
Raphael: Loom’s big performance event of the Spring at Theaterlab is our album release party. We combine music from the album with new contemporary modern choreography and narrative excerpts from the Erosion show that some the music originally came from, as well as snippets from the piece you saw at the Vital Vox Festival.
CM: What exactly is the story of Erosion?
Raphael: Erosion was developed collaboratively by the full 10-person ensemble. The story that we all unfolded together was over the course of a year of rehearsals. It was a political story, but in a one-step-aesthetically-removed world. We say online all the time that it was “half Occupy Wall St, half Dr. Seuss” [both laugh]
Sasha: Yes, Occupy Wall St obviously the political message behind the drama, but Dr. Seuss being the [mouthpiece] for the English lyrics and the instruments being original and homemade, and the dance abstract.
Raphael: It starts in a familiarly bleak world of office desk jobs. A homeless woman on the street gets angry at a mid-level corporate exec, throws a fistful of dirt at him–He then has an epiphany. It’s revealed that whenever this homeless woman throws dirt at someone, they have this transcendental new experience of…
Raphael: …and humanness and loving mankind. So, first, she becomes a sort of cult figure, and then…
Kate: She’s also pregnant…
Raphael: Yes, she’s a pregnant homeless woman, but then, she’s not a messiah figure. All of the characters in the story are complex and questionable. Basically, as the story unfolds, her dirt distribution becomes a craze and spirals out of control, and as her dirt is mass-packaged and distributed globally, it leads to a giant ecological crisis. The show features the [harmonic] vocal style from the suite you heard at the 1st night we performed at Vital Vox, but the dances are even more athletic and acrobatic than the ballet from the second night of the festival.
Sasha: We do in the play, but on the recording of Erosion we chose to focus on the trio–The top musicians of the group.
CM: When the group is engaged in the full performance, is there a way that you all balance out your skills and your roles? Were there conflicts with doing everything all at once?
Kate: Yes, we did run into conflict about that!
Sasha: Quite often, actually! [laughs]
Kate: That was part of the collaboration–it was to figure out how to enhance each other rather than conflict.
Raphael: Loom has an “inner-disciplinary” cross-training, as a part of rehearsal process. It’s a sort of skill-share model, where the people with a stronger musical background help the folks are helping those that are more versed in dance with complex vocal harmonies, and the ones that are primarily dancers help the vocalists out with athletic points, and all are also helped along with text-based storytelling.
‘Erosion: A Fable’ development process
CM: Is anyone else composing or training to compose besides you, Sasha?
[Pictured left: Michael Bauer and Neva Cockrell during Loom’s first major project titled Every Body, summer 2012]
Sasha: Our collaboration isn’t fully equal in that sense, but Neva Cockrell is the choreographer of the group, and I’m the composer of the group…
Raphael: And then everybody else is training as singers and dancers.
Sasha: But in that particular piece [Erosion], the whole ensemble collaborated in a sense that there were certain sections where the storyline or the narrative was taken from other actors’ ideas that got generated in the rehearsal process…
CM: The ensemble mostly performs barefoot–is there a specific reason for this, like is there a bigger earthly or spiritual connection when you do this?
Kate: Well, normally if I were wearing a dress like the one worn at Vital Vox, I would also be wearing high heels as I would at a classical concert–I feel like it changes not the way I sing, but how you can move and be in the space where you would be wearing fancy shoes and move naturally on the ground.
Sasha: For me, it’s multiple reasons–It’s the feel-good groundedness to the earth like you mentioned, but there’s also the connection to contemporary dance as we’re an ensemble that works with dancers, and as you you know in contemporary dance, they mostly don’t wear shoes at all (with possibly the exception of jazz shoes depending on the group), and the 3rd reason for me is that I’ve studied a lot of different world music traditions, and as soon as you get into a house or performance space, you remove your shoes out of respect because your feet are considered dirty from the outside, so, those are basically the associations for me.
Raphael: When you saw the way we move around on stage, it reflects a different relationship to the body of the singer than this still, sort of removed aesthetic of a classical concert, where this music is coming from our bodies, so we’re moving as we sing, and that barefootedness lets us move around more freely.
“Erosion: a Fable” re-edited Trailer/Redux