Deconstruction of a dramatic narrative can be a wonderful artistic device. Taking the elements of a story and presenting them in a different way can lead to new and exciting ways to see that story. Contra-Tiempo’s 2016 work Agua Furiosa does not do that.
This 90-minute work by founding director Ana Maria Alvarez was presented as part of the Kravis Center’s PEAK series. It bounces from one poorly developed idea to the next, while sandwiching in equally underdeveloped mish-mashes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If that sounds confusing, well, that’s because it is.
The dancers are clean, clear and mature performers that almost seduce you in to believing that Agua Furiosa has more depth and clarity than it has. (Makeshift choreography danced and validated by wonderful dancers seems to be a somewhat disturbing trend in contemporary dance.)
The ensemble rips through the highly eclectic movement phrases, sharp, detailed and specific only to have the choreographic bottom drop out and send them off to rearrange some mop buckets. The saving grace of the work, if there is one, is the stunning Pyeng Threadgill, who weaves her way through the entire work as narrator, vocalist and general overseeing goddess. Her spoken word and sung vocal delivery are world class.
Agua Furiosa can never seem to make up its mind as to what it is about. Water? Human suffering? Shakespeare? Violence? The environment? All these topics are addressed in the most obvious and half-baked manner imaginable. What could have been a profound statement concerning all the above topics comes off as preachy, sophomoric and very long-winded.
What the performers are given to do simply doesn’t actually add up to anything. While the world certainly needs more art and dances with messages and meaning, we also need to be able to understand them.