A response to Elia Mrak + Erica Badgeley’s Velocity 2014 SCUBA performance, paraphrase.


created and performed by erica badgeley and elia mrak
music by four tet
text inspired by rainer maria rilke

the performance

we are invited onstage to watch, sitting around the periphery.

erica badgeley and elia mrak enter, one carrying a shallow basket filled with cherry blossom petals and the other a pale green thermos. they set these objects down and face one another.

they hug it out, to the music of four tet. within this tableau, we perceive one of them has frozen into a statue, while the other’s body grows lithe and supple, slides downward and out of the stiffened arms of the embracer, and away across the stage.

they face one another again. elia picks up the thermos and sets it spinning on the floor. it ends pointed more towards him.

elia sets the thermos aside and takes a stance on one side of the stage. he sways, grooving on expressive riffs of his hands, head, feet, limbs. he dances as a drummer blasts through a solo, playing the beat, contrasts of speedy and slow, a pause, a fall, catching a curve and riding it down and around and back again. athletic repeated phrases of movement flow deeper as he explores them fully, softly, explosively. vocally expressive, he sighs and cries out, whooshes and shushes, matching and contrasting sound rhythms and body rhythms. he embraces movement, dancing it out, embodying himself with joy and passion and purpose.

at the same time, erica crosses to the other side of the stage. she removes a handful of petals from the basket, places them on the floor. she considers where she has placed them, takes another handful of petals from the basket and lays them adjacent to the first handful. in this thoughtful, methodical way, she builds a semi-circle of petals, an open curve with a small break of space along the line. she walks into the petal circle by this portal and stands, looking about, considering what she has built.

as elia’s dance reaches its climax, erica sways, moving to her own beat, right and left, first in place then foot to foot, softly building rhythm and commitment, hands and arms spiraling out to each side. she moves, travels the space back and forth over the floor, kicking and spreading petals with her feet as she bisects the circle. she flies low into the floor, rolls across it and around and up. graceful and strong, she expands and contracts, passing through her own center to fall and catch and twist and leap and curve. she sighs it and she shouts it, she embraces movement, dancing it out, embodying herself with joy and passion and purpose.

erica softly sits herself backward and down, until she lies face up upon the floor, arms and legs akimbo, palms upward. she rests a moment. elia watches.

she gets up, walks about in a circle, lies back down again in the same fashion. again. and again.

elia joins her in this phrase. they walk it together, moving at the same time and in the same direction, synching up.

they dance together, a pas de deux flying low and passing through, two distinct dancers, fully aware of themselves and of each other, enjoying sensation and immediacy, sharing uncertainty and resolve, negotiating their suddenness, their abrupt shifts, their differences and sameness, their mutual respect, trust, friendship. celebrating themselves and the other as they feel their way through the space that separates and enjoins us all.

they take turns speaking a text to one another, and to us

“a merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. but once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

side by side, erica and elia leave the stage.


improvisation is central to the performance aesthetic of elia and erica. friday, saturday and sunday, each instance of the piece was different, by design. what i describe is a paraphrase of all three. while the overall structure stayed the same, every night was unique in the dance, the roles and the vibe.

once we saw elia laying out the flower petals as erica grooved in open space.

on another evening their shared dance at the end exploded with laughter and mischief as they tossed martial art energy at one another, bruce lee style.

and i am sure both would agree, dancing over flower petals is chalk full of teachable moments!

i was happy to see all three performances of paraphrase, and privileged to walk beside these artists as they grew their piece during scuba.

paraphrase explores what it means to be human through dance and movement, poetry, and a shared journey between the performers and the audience.

thanks, elia and erica, for putting it all out there, and for daring to be dance philosophers with something to say.

steven ripley, april 30 2014


Photo: Tim Summers

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