Recently I wrote about the collaborative juice that powers Soluna Performing Arts Group, which works with local visual artists, composers, musicians, and filmmakers to produce gorgeously rich dance events. Soluna has joined forces several times now with Erin Turner, a painter/sculptor/set designer/storyteller whose symbolic imagination finds expression in ecstatically transformed materials, both discarded and natural. Newspaper, tin foil, and chicken wire become pillowy tornadoes and rumpled space-worms. Car wash parts take on life as underwater creatures. In an age that’s equal parts homogeneous and hyper-individual, I love Erin’s ability to tap archetypes and deep human narratives, connecting perennial longings with primeval rituals and images.

Erin’s “Water Ballet” is a one-woman show opening at Living Arts on Friday, September 7. It features a vast array of paintings, interactive sculptures (many lit from within), video projections, and other pieces. The exhibit opening, which starts at 6pm, ends with a one-night-only performance/ movement installation at 9pm featuring Erin’s costumes and headpieces, original music by Andrew Bones, and dance choreographed and performed by Tulsa Modern Movement and Soluna’s Megan McKown Miller.

Erin describes “Water Ballet” as “an underwater experience based on the Balinese belief of how the soul is released from the physical constraints of the body after death.” According to that tradition, after the body is buried, the ashes are burned and must pass through each of the four elements and into the ocean in order for the soul to achieve its final release from earthly life. “The gallery is transformed,” she writes on her website, “into a palimpsest of sensory details to display the ocean as it wipes clean the slate of humans’ perceived existence.”

The movement part of this experience began with a short piece called “Remains,” a site-specific installation that Erin and Tulsa Modern Movement created for the 2012 eMerge Dance Festival, which explored qualities found in the four elements — earth, wind, fire, and water. When Erin was ready to expand the piece into a full event, TuMM’s Ari Christopher created specific phrases for dancers embodying creatures like coral and jellyfish, then turned the dancers loose with those phrases to improvise with them amidst the hanging sculptures in the gallery. I have experimented with moving from different points of initiation as the soul journeys outward, first exploring transverse space from the joints and points of the body, then letting core-distal connections take over as the soul moves into its final surrender. Megan represents the ocean, and the duet she and I created to show the soul being released takes its cues in part from Andrew Bones’ description of the music he composed for it.

This piece was written for the unrelenting current; our surge and our path.  When presented with this theme, inspiration came from the idea of sending one’s remains with the current to reach the ocean. There came a feeling of great sympathy for the current in its struggle and longing to become the ocean.  It is consumed by this one and only thought… and so it pushes and searches endlessly for it… along the way, crashing into rocks and dams, but always kinetic in pursuit of its ocean.

I hope you’ll join us Friday night for this unique collaborative experience, which will immerse you in an extraordinarily rich visual and aural environment and take you on a journey through transformation and release.

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