Desires drive dreams, but realities deflect and distort dreams. And in Ella Fiskum Danz’ “Triptych 0811,” three dreamers, their dreams and their realities were mashed into a surreal but entertaining landscape.
The engaging work-in-progress, which was shown Tuesday night at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer, was a reality freak show in which dreams and true life were indistinguishable. It depicted a trio of feminine cultural stereotypes personified as a starlet in drag, a ballerina and a pole dancer. But rather than creatures of envy, these three, who often melded into one, were hardly enviable; rather, they appeared trapped by their occupations, forced into ceaseless parades of soul-sapping role-playing.
This sense that their parts dictated their actions was ramped up by Norwegian guitarist Ronni Le Tekro. Considered one of the best guitar players in the world, second only to Eddie Van Halen, the program indicated, Tekro made his guitar come alive. It howled, wept, sang and pushed the trio to the brink. With Tekro positioned downstage, he reflected on their feelings and prodded them through the exhilarating runs with thunderous riffs and their defeats with muted sobs.
The piece began with a ballerina, danced by Svetlana Bednenko, shrouded in a burqa trimmed at the hem with black feathers. As she tip-toed about the stage, her hands fluttered, her arms rippled in an obvious nod to the quintessential ballet icon: the swan.
A movable cage-like stage design by Serge von Arx, on which hung panels for video projections, provided visions of their dreams. In the ballerina’s case, it was to perform the lead role in “Swan Lake.” The music gave way to Tchaikovsky’s familiar score, and the dance, from then on, came in and out of focus as a warped “Swan Lake.”
There were many jaw-dropping moments — such as choreographer/dancer Fiskum’s first appearance onstage as the pole dancer. Wearing black boots with spikey heels and a skimpy leather outfit, she attacked the shaky staff with purpose. Climbing to the top, her body wrapped around the shaft, she slid down, upside down, and hung onto the pole as if her life were at risk.
Yet at the end, to the “Swan” music, her dance with the pole was destructive and bittersweet. Wearing pasties and a tutu, she was drowned by her destructive desires.
Equally wonderful was Magnus Myhr as the Hollywood ingénue in drag. His energy — in cutesy Marilyn Monroe poses and giggles, as well as hyperactive bursts that ended in debilitation — was staggering.
This dreamscape ended on a high note — to Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.” As the Sinatra tune played, the ballerina, the starlet and the pole dancer embraced their roles in the biggest, sassiest ways possible. It was not acceptance or surrender that led them back to their stereotypes; it was the knowledge that the world is a stage and they had a part to play in it.