Dance is tricky enough without purposely avoiding the ground, yet choreographer Robin Stiehm's City at the Southern Theater not only dared to literally elevate the action but did so within a decaying, futuristic urban world. Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities inspired Stiehm's vision, but scenic designer Joseph Stanley gave her ideas an architectural life-force by creating a dreamscape complete with taut trampoline, scaffolding, rope bridges, and a hanging cage--all serving as sites for superkinetic movement. Jeff Bartlett's coppery lighting enhanced the scene while Lisa Powers's streamlined costumes summoned up stark images of a society forced to survive with the barest essentials. These aesthetic triumphs combined with nonstop evocative vignettes, including a dramatic sea of black-wrapped Harpies stroking the forbidden floor. This image evoked Dante's levels of hell, as the tortured humans above struggled to dominate one another during their restless time on Earth. Ultimately there was no sense of heaven's existence in this work, only the dead-end cycle of failure accompanying adversity and apathy. Bleak subjects indeed, but communicated with chilling clarity by this artistic team.


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