Eric Geiger is listed as the director rather than the choreographer of “Kingdom for Sale (better history),” performed at Space 4 Art last weekend, and the seven-women cast was clearly using an improvisational score. Geiger has worked with Karen Schaffman and Mary Reich, founders of the Lower Left collective that put San Diego on the map for brainy improv, and “Kingdom” had the kind of complex juiciness I fondly remember from Lower Left. It didn’t hurt that Geiger was working with some of the most interesting dancers in town, in particular Sadie Weinberg, Anya Cloud, and Jess Humphrey, who turned out to be a zany, mugging comedienne. Also in the terrifically in-synch cast: Dina Apple, Emily Aust, Lisa Frank, and Katie Lorge.
The women started out standing in a cluster, lightly jittering as if impatiently waiting in line. The jittering intensified, and I saw them as subway passengers and then, as they really bobbled, as riders on a rickety bus on a rough road, maybe in a Third World country where other passengers carried crates of live chickens. Yes, that’s a lot of story to place on a few minutes of dance, but one thing that felt so rich about “Kingdom” was the way it engaged and made space for viewers’ imaginations. Talking after the show, I discovered that my husband saw the whole piece as a metaphor for sex! And a dance artist in the audience was enthralled by the jiggling bodies.
In transitions that felt deliciously organic, the impulse to move got so intense that the women broke out of the cluster, Cloud looking as if she were the grip of a demonic possession. Eventually, exhausted by the frenetic movement, they staggered as if walking on legs was something new, playfully catching each other – or not.
All of this took place in silence until the end, when they did a sinuous choreographed unison dance to the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” which suggested that Geiger and the dancers had been working with a story about drugs. Darn! I liked having the freedom to make up my own narrative, and I would have preferred open-ended instrumental music versus an iconic 60s song.
Geiger, in collaboration with sound artist Blair Robert Nelson, also created and performed “Ladybug,” which seemed to be a pure – rather than scored – improvisation in which Nelson danced behind his audio console and occasionally joined Geiger on the stage. Flirty, flouncy moves and Nelson’s costume in particular – a shirt with a large female face and a flowered headband – played with the construct of gender. I always love seeing Geiger move, his gestures are so clean he bisects the air, but this piece was thin, especially since it shared a program with the dense, satisfying “Kingdom.”