By Joan Lowndes
The final event in Intermedia's week-long presentation at the Vancouver Art Gallery was the most participatory of all: an elemental experience of rhythm shared by some three hundred people and maintained, at varying levels of intensity, for no less than three hours.
Helen Goodwin, the leader of THEco dance group which was to "perform," had told me beforehand: "I'm pulling out the electrical connection . I'm tired of all the pseudo - sophistication of plugs and switches. I'm trying to work with something real - the human connection."
And there were no short circuits. At 9 p.m. on saturday the great circle, mostly of young people, gathered in the main gallery were asked to take off their shows and "jump into the sea of rhythm" created by San francisco drummer Casey Sonnabend.
In the center of the circle, about thirty dancers, dressed unglamorously in blue jeans and t-shirts, improvised no more felicitously than any random party of teenagers.
The consequent reaction was: "I can do as well as that." The atmosphere was comparable to that at a revival meeting, as various people felt the call and walked from the outer edge of the circle into its rising core.
The dancers fostered the movement by weaving through the crowd. Then the lights were turned out to cover any lingering self-consciousness while Casy Sonnabend, joined by local musicians Felix Assoon. Rudi Richards and Clyde Griffths quickened the beat.
By 10:30 this whole vast audience had become a chanting, gyrating African tribe. But control was always maintained through the lead drummer, ready at any moment to cut back to the rhythm, and through the dancers who had been alerted to check any destructive forces which might be realized.
The human energy ebbed and flowed, hitting the peaks then settling down as people danced in small groups or rejoined the mass.
At midnight when the Gallery signaled closing time, everyone was loath to stop. They had gone beyound tiredness to tap unknown energy reserves. The discovery had been so overwhelming that the end they sat down quietly on the floor and hummed for a few minutes, as at the end of a ritual.
Prior to this highly successful experiment in community involvement the Living Theater had presented Tree. Here the traditional relationship between performers and audience prevailed, so that one must fault the offering for being amateurish, pretentious and obscure.
It is not enough to paint one's face white to acquire the art of Marcil Marceau. The group must do a lot more studying and hard work before it has the right to call itself "living."
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