Rhizome DC is one of those venues that, even if you’ve been there before, feels like a secret. From the outside it looks like a Shel Silverstein illustration, an old house sketched in by the Tacoma Park metro. It’s a venue that is best known for experimental music and sound art performances, but idiosyncratic dance performances surface occasionally. A two-story, four-by-four, it was arranged for this performance with the living room as the stage; the dining room as the house; the kitchen as the box office and standing room; and the entryway as a wing with access to the second level dressing rooms. In total it seats about 30 with standing room for another dozen.
…all the performers danced beautifully.
The name “Rhizome” comes from the writings of 20th century French philosophers Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. As opposed the the vertical growth of something like a tree, the growth of something rhizomeatic happens more horizontally—a sideways tunneling through becoming that results in “deterritorialized” associations and happenings. Referring to their book, “A Thousand Plateaus,” where this concept is developed, “The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” says: “Because of this rhizomatic structure, a traditional summary of the ‘theses’ and arguments of A Thousand Plateaus is either downright impossible, or at best, would be much too complex to attempt…” At Rhizome, art happens that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.
The catch-22 at a venue like Rhizome is that because it is not a proscenium space designed for concert dance performance, it can be a difficult place to make dance performance work. The performers at the February 4 performance of ‘Sprouts! New works by local emerging dance artists,” Olivia Al Samadi, Emily Ames, Jadyn, Brick, Ashayla Byrd, Amber Lucia Chabus, Ian Edwards, Faryn Kelly, Zoe Wampler, and Sydney B. Wiggins, all made a valiant effort to contain themselves in the space they had. Edwards, a tall dancer with long limbs and a beautiful line, was very nearly brushing the ceiling with his head—and his toes. And the tips of his fingers. At one point, it seemed like he could touch all the surfaces of the room at once.
Even though the dancers maximized their use of space, the performance was sometimes difficult to see. I never knew what some of the performers had on their feet. Brick’s “Pieces of My Grief” (which included an incredibly personal monologue about the death of a grandmother) and Ames’ and collaborator Rae Luebbert’s work, “One Half of a Double” (which included writing a series of 8.5” x 11” signs that said “IMAGINE I AM DANCING” and sticking them to the wall before repeatedly giving them away to a single audience member), were the least traditional. They also felt like they made the most effective use of the non-proscenium performance space through their less phrase-oriented connection with the audience. The architecture of an experimental performance space physically holds the structure of experimental performances better. That said, all the performers danced beautifully. I look forward to seeing what they will do with the resources and space of larger venues in the future.
“SPROUTS! New work by emerging local dance artists” ran February 4, 2023 Rhizome DC, 6950 Maple Street, NW, Washington, DC 20012. A link to the event is available here.