As the crowd let in to the Erickson Theater, folks were all hugs and how-are-yous. I could tell pretty easily that Man On The Beach's last night would be a love fest—and, it turns out, for good reason.
The stage is set black, lined on its sides with staggered, draped stage walls. A tea kettle reaches a boil to the ambient fuzz of white noise, and a lone man in a plaid shirt sits on a driftwood bench clutching a framed picture, as he sways in the bleak stillness of solitude.
In a moment, I realize that Salt Horse turns contemporary dance into a slow, writhing crawl when a man wrapped—shoulders up—in black, corrugated piping inches from the opposite side of the stage.
Soon the set is brimming with the sensuality of its performers, and I notice how many pairs of nice bottoms and legs are on the stage. In one vignette, a woman pounces about in a short black dress, rotating her hips in perfect form, all the while lustily groping the drapes, which eventually grope her back.
Under Salt Horse's direction, Man On The Beach's able-bodied dancers are transmuted, with surreal costumes and choreographed movement, into harbingers of irreproachable despair. The ambient droning, bird chirping, clicks, and fluttering of bells make the space inside the Erickson Theater feel hollow and overwhelmed all at once.
Near the end of the program, a bearded man twitches into view—one by one, he is joined by a series of doppelgangers who seem to signify the fractured nature of the human psyche. They dance and pull at him in tumult, until the stage is overrun with his bearded, tattooed likeness. At the very end, the lone man in plaid returns to his bench, then slowly traipses across the stage while a young boy runs around him in forgotten circles.
I realize modern dance is not for everyone, but Man On The Beach stayed with me and forced me into rumination over the causes of our collective madness. And with its taut, hour-long run-time, last night's suggests was a great recommendation.