Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

Faith in nature and one another: Hannah Krafcik and Emily Jones at TBA

Emily Jones and Hannah Krafcik's experimental performance "apogee" explores themes of nature and intuition.


Still from apogee performance, photo credit PICA/Tojo Andrianarivo

In apogee, trust is everything. 

“Welcome to a dream’s sense,” the audience hears as the performance begins. Over the course of an hour, dance, video, sound, and spoken word weave a visual and sensorial experience of intuition. For this experimental performance, part of PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival, dancers Hannah Krafcik and Emily Jones hold faith in nature, their bodies, and each other. Apogee suggests trust as intimacy. Through movement, Krafcik and Jones effectively illustrate how internal knowing can be expressed as outward care. Live performances of apogee took place September 30 through October 2 as part of PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival; I attended the October 1 performance.  

The dance area is spare, set in one corner of PICA’s massive warehouse, which is shadowy in the early evening. Lights are low, and murmurs of the audience echo against the concrete walls. Slow, ethereal ambient music begins, flowing in the darkness as Krafcik and Jones crawl along the floor. Flashes of light flick across their figures. The dancers’ gradual creeping motions feel unnatural, like expressions in reverse. Their movements are almost recognizable, but not quite, and I sense a logical disruption. It’s as though I’m watching a dream begin.

Still from apogee performance, photo credit PICA/Tojo Andrianarivo

Distorted electronic music creates a swift shift. Krafcik and Jones begin broad leaps across the floor as pulsing sounds pour through the speakers. The sonic throb feels both internal and external, like a resounding collective heartbeat. The dancers’ leaps seem to explore that dual space. 

Yet, as soon as the performance hastens, it slows down again. Delicate bird song and projected flower imagery replace the electronica, and Krafcik and Jones’s gestures now feel mycelial, sprawling, and growth-like among moments of stillness and rest. It’s at this point that I realize how integral quietude is to apogee. When the dancers pauses in silence, only breath remains. Connections between the dancers, and between everyone in the room, are reinforced in these breaths. Like apogee’s sequences of movement, breath itself is a cycle of in-and-out on an infinite loop. 

Still from apogee performance, photo credit PICA/Tojo Andrianarivo

At times, the contact improvisation between Krafcik and Jones braids them into one mutating creature. They are united physically and emotionally. Amid ever-evolving musical twists, they conjoin in varying ways, sharing limbs and weight. They lift each other’s bodies and spin; they show each other attention and support. Like elaborate mating rituals, their gestures suggest power dynamics, intimacy, and care as central concerns. At one point, they change into each other’s clothes. The deep kinship and reciprocity between the dancers is heart-wrenching to watch. 

Nature plays a pivotal role in apogee; the frequent presence of nature, projected on the walls behind the dancers, anchors the performance. Depictions of gentle tides, drifting clouds, and flora in the breeze again bring breath to mind. In recent years, advances in somatic therapies like Hakomi have solidified what the natural world has known for eons: we can trust our bodies, because our bodies know things. 


Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington

Still from apogee performance, photo credit PICA/Tojo Andrianarivo

Through spinning, vibrating, jumping, circling, crawling, connecting, and breathing, Krafcik and Jones both progress toward a body-self, a new way of intuitive, kinesthetic knowing. Their cyclical explorations, wherein they limit movement and then expand it, mimic the cycles of nature and life itself. It’s a potent reminder that we, as humans, are nature. How can we show care toward our surroundings accordingly?

As apogee reaches its final moments, Krafcik and Jones shift to complete synchronicity before following one another across the floor with a beam of light and exiting. Then silence. I gradually start to register the faint roar of traffic on N. Williams Avenue in the distance. As the dancers leave the stage, the darkness of the room is tinged in blue.

  • Live performances of apogee took place at PICA September 30 – October 2, 2021.
  • The virtual performance is available to view until October 31, 2021. 
  • Performer Hannah Krafcik also contributes stories to Oregon ArtsWatch

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Lindsay Costello is an experimental artist and writer in Portland, Oregon, with an academic background in textile research at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. Her critical writing can also be read at Hyperallergic, Art Papers, Art Practical, 60 Inch Center, this is tomorrow, and Textile: Cloth and Culture, among other places. She is the founder of plant poetics, an herbalism project, and soft surface, a digital poetry journal/residency. She is the co-founder of Critical Viewing, an aggregate of art community happenings in the Pacific NorthwestHer artistic practice centers magic, ecology, and folkways in social practice, writing, sculpture, and installation.

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