Even if you think you don't like avant-garde dance, you should still consider checking out PYLON III. Its predecessor, PYLON II, in 2016, blew the minds of the King Street Station crowd with its harrowing beauty and power. It felt at once zeitgeisty and like a cautionary tale with undertones of George Orwell's 1984 on steroids. I've gone to two avant-dance events in my life, but PYLON II—choreographed by Coleman Pester and scored by Monika Khot—riveted me with its physical and emotional turbulence, even though I lacked the terminology to describe the dancers' lithe contortions and fraught feints.
PYLON III marks the conclusion of Pester's trilogy. Each piece examines "complex systems of control using highly physical choreography, architectural set pieces, and a variety of analog and digital technologies all together in a tense relationship," Pester says. PYLON III's other collaborators include artists Alex Boeschenstein and Ben Chaykin, and writer/actor Stefan Richmond.
"Alex has been aggregating different types of video—patchworks of photogrammetry, aerial drone footage, 3-D game design, and live-feed surveillance to make visual stimuli for the audience," Pester says. "While Ben has been focused on integrating robotics into the set design. Stefan has created five monologues that will provide the audience with a narrative through line."
What distinguishes III from II, Pester says, is its emphasis on hope. It's an odd tack to take when the situation for people of leftist, compassionate sensibilities—including queer/nonbinary folks such as Pester—seems grim. Did a sense of desperation amid misguided governing and resurgent ideologies like white supremacy lead to this thematic shift?
Pester relates that the bulk of their work so far "has been anxiety-fueled, driven by struggle, or built upon performative tension. While this is still true for PYLON III, I also wanted to carve out space for something lighter to exist."
Going against their usual tendencies, Pester initially sought the tougher challenge of finding a happy ending to the PYLON series, even though 2017 represented one of their most traumatic years, personally and via Trump's policies. "I find hope in unusual places. I feel a tangible piece within myself that is attached to visions of a utopian society."
As for Khot, she admits that PYLON III demands "more complexity and nuance" than its predecessor. "This score is not going to be as outwardly bleak as PYLON II. It may hurt, but only deep inside. For PYLON II, I was focused on the horror that is human-created-non-human- mass-systems-of-oppression, and it seemed as though using obvious organic sounds that trigger memories of these structures (like steam from a factory, motorized churning) would represent that horror well. There's nothing scarier to me than hearing metal being scraped together."
Scoring PYLON III proved to be harder for Khot to conceptualize. "I'm attempting to exemplify the aftermath of the dystopic nature of PYLON II, like a fire or a demolished building creating debris that casts the sky with a beautiful purple haze. However, there will be allusions to PYLON II, and parts of the score will be just as crushing/apocalyptic, though intended to be felt as a nightmarish memory."