Black Label Movement premieres "Hive" at Cowles

Carl Flink and John Bohannon's 2012 TED Talk "Let's Talk About Sex"

Carl Flink and John Bohannon's 2012 TED Talk "Let's Talk About Sex"

Black Label Movement returns to the Cowles Center this weekend with the world premiere of artistic director Carl Flink's new piece, "Hive," inspired by a swarm of bees. BLM will also be presenting a regional premiere of their TED talk, "Let's Talk about Sex," created with science writer John Bohannon and accompanied by the band Jello Slave, and two older pieces Flink choreographed in 2006.


"Hive" is both a "simple and a complicated concept all wrapped into one," says Flink. The genesis of the piece came about three years ago when BLM was staying in Maine for a dance festival at Bates College. Flink and his family were walking in the hills near where the festival took place. There, one of his twin daughters, who were three years old at the time, stepped on a hornet nest. Her screaming caused Flink's older daughter, Willa, who was eight, to run into a cloud of hornets. Willa then began running around screaming -- she had no idea what had happened -- and Flink began chasing her around, trying to get her to slow down. "I finally got her to stand still and I said, 'Turn around, honey.' Her back was covered in about 40 stings." Flink himself was stung about 15 times as well.

The emotional moment stayed with him, and Flink began thinking about the hive experience. "It's a curious space," he says. "When you open up a hive, there is an order to it, and yet a chaos." Intrigued by the wildness juxtaposed by the intricate pathways and winding interiors of the hive, Flink began to research hornets and insects in general. "They move without concern for personal space," he says. "They crawl all over each other." The piece "Hive" is taking that kind of interaction and placing it in a human and community context, "resulting in interesting physical inter-twinings," he says. 

Flink uses the hive as a metaphor for the ways that humans often gather in social spaces, interacting with devices but often not connecting with each other, especially in places like coffee shops and airports. Like the bugs, each body is doing its own task, without necessarily an awareness of the other bodies.  

In the piece, the dancers don't literally become bugs, or even manifest recognizable gestures of people checking their phones or typing on laptops. Rather, they take on ritualistic behavior.

Showing with "Hive" is the regional premiere of "Let's Talk about Sex," which was first presented at TED in Long Beach. BLM has done a total of four TED Talks, and Flink says the company enjoys exploring how dance can be experienced across multiple platforms.  

When they perform "Let's Talk about Sex" at the Cowles, it will be the second time that BLM has taken one of their TED Talks and re-imagined it for an audience in Minnesota. They did a similar thing with "A Modest Proposal," which was also created with John Bohannon, and showed at the Cowles in 2012. Unlike when they originally performed the piece at TED, Flink says the event at the Cowles, which includes a post-show discussion, allows for a real-time conversation afterwards. "We're looking forward to hearing from audience members," Flink says.

The impetus for the piece was Bohannon's wish that someone had sat down and talked to him about sex when he was 13 years old -- including the history and science of sex. "It would have calmed him down a lot," Flink says. 

Unlike "A Modest Proposal," where the dancers were very subservient to the speaker, the piece is "far more choreographic," Flink says. The speaker (who for this weekend's performance is played by one of the performers) gets lifted and is "very much a part of the choreography."  

BLM's concert also includes two pieces Flink created in 2006. In "Lost Lullaby," Flink has created a dance from his experience singing lullabies to his daughter while watching the Iraq War played out on the news. The other piece, "Fractured Narrative for a Sad Ending," is an autobiographical work about his relationship with his sister, who died from heroine addiction in her 30s.  


Black Label Movement

Cowles Center for the Performing Arts

8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday