The American Dance Festival allows audiences to sample a wide variety of modern dance each summer, from companies popular with casual fans to choreography for the aficionado. Adele Myers falls into the latter category, requiring audiences to focus on introspective details and to be familiar with the workings of dancers bodies for full appreciation of her work.
Myers says several factors influenced her 2013 piece, Einsteins Happiest Thought. First, she wanted to explore her fear of heights and the risk of falling; second, she wanted to investigate the different ways people experience the same time and space while anticipating risks. The title comes from Albert Einsteins statement that his happiest thought in life was to contemplate such time-space experiences.
The through-line in this 50-minute work is a young woman in a yellow jumpsuit holding an ever-lengthening yellow rope behind her as she slowly makes her way from the right-hand side toward a tall A-frame ladder on the left side. As she progresses (and eventually climbs the ladder), four women in black jumpsuits perform various feats of balance and stress, from seeing how far they can lean over on one tiptoe before falling to leaping on one foot across the stage and over the yellow rope. Several stress-making sequences include furiously windmilling arms and bicycling motions while lying on the floor.
There are no big dramatic sequences or flashy steps. Instead, the dancers work though various exercises, their heavy breathing, involuntary grunts and sounds of feet on the floor adding to the human atmosphere. The audience can relate to risk-taking here as the woman in yellow ascends unprotected to the top of the tall ladder, echoed by another dancer standing atop a smaller ladder with arms raised while in a blinding spotlight. There also are sequences of dancers running backwards and performing energetic movements in complete darkness at the edge of the stage.
Visual interest is maintained by Kathy Couchs lighting changes, sometimes darkly ominous, sometimes sunnily bright. Josh Quillens score of electronic bleeps, minimalist phrases and hypnotic drumming supplies an alternate worlds mood.
Although the piece has an academic feel, it can reward the experienced viewer in its attempts to show the bodys reaction to gravity and precariousness.