A meditative modern dance piece and an open-ended visual-art installation will mark a new beginning for Real Art Ways.
The cinema and arts complex has purchased the entire old Underwood typewriter factory building at 56 Arbor St., where it has leased limited space since 1989. From June 17 to 25, to mark the purchase and expansion creatively, the multimedia performance piece “And All Things Hushed” is letting audiences into previously unexplored parts of the building while also taking full advantage of RAW’s existing gallery and performance area.
Besides Real Art Ways’ longtime space at the back of the building, 56 Arbor Street houses lawyers’ offices, studio spaces, Jumping Frog Books, the Hartford Preservation Alliance and other tenants. Those tenants will remain, but there are unused areas of the building that will be added to the Real Art Ways complex.
“And All Things Hushed” is a celebration, but not a noisy one, more in the spirit of the calmer foreign films RAW screens and the large detailed artworks that fill its large galleries. RAW holds regular Creative Cocktail Hours and other parties, but this is not one of them.
Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s 1922 poetry collection “Sonnets to Orpheus,” “And All Things Hushed” is a leisurely, contemplative piece that lets you see Real Art Ways from whole new perspectives.
“And All Things Hushed” was conceived by Peter Kyle, a Hartford-based choreographer who has brought in numerous local performers, artists, designers and filmmakers to realize the concept of “moment to moment living” he finds in Rilke’s work.
He describes the result as “language married with the experience of physicality. I see music and dance as thinking. It’s all part of a larger physical system.”
“I’ve never done anything this elaborate before,” says Kyle, who lives in Bloomfield and teaches at Trinity College. “I wanted to create a piece with a traveling component.”
When he initially proposed doing a multimedia work at Real Art Ways, he presumed that he could use all three adjacent gallery spaces at the end of RAW’s lobby area. Executive director Will K. Wilkins told Kyle that two of the gallery spaces were already scheduled for exhibits but suggested that he look at unused areas of the building. Kyle embraced this offer, calling it “a whole new possibility.”
“And All Things Hushed” has two parts, the first setting the mood for the second.
Part 1 is an art installation with live performance elements, staged in and around a couple of reopened areas in the building.
In these corridors and rooms there are live performers engaged in quiet activities. There’s digital art and visual art and a soft soundscape. There are holes to look through, but most of the views do not involve a tight focus.
There is text painted on the walls, backwards, which can be read forwards thanks to a mirrored wall. Holes in otherwise blackened windows allow viewers to see a dance performance on the lawn outside. The installation experience is mostly self-guided. When audiences have spent 35 or 40 minutes in the space, they are gently ushered around the building to the main Real Art Ways space for the dance.
Near where you exit the main space, there’s a place to sit and look at a copy of “Sonnets to Orpheus,” the Stephen Mitchell translation from 1985. The book provides a transition from the installation to the performance.
Part 2 begins with readings of three sonnets, then opens up to a full modern dance performance in the large gallery area where RAW usually holds its live performances and lectures.
Kyle calls the first section “an opportunity to invite audiences to tune in to their sensations. We are priming them to sit down to watch the dance.”
The backdrop of the dance is a mesmerizing effect by visual artist Christine Sciulli, projecting fine lighting on soft netting to create a cloud- or smoke-like image. The performance area is otherwise very dark.
The performers include professional dancers Kyleigh Olivier, Marielis Garcia, Yueh-Ching Chung and Holley Farmer and several students from the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts: Kamryn DeAngelis, Lexi DeLisle and Grace Zommer. They each bring different styles, paces and attitudes to the performance. When a new dancer enters the space, the others are often lying immobile on the ground.
As a choreographer, Kyle appreciates the horizontal possibilities of movement as well the vertical. He prizes stillness as much as movement. The performance is slow, methodical, contemplative and philosophical, in keeping with Rilke’s themes of the interconnectedness of art and life.
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Local filmmaker RJ LaRussa was charged with doing the lighting design and videography for “And All Things Hushed.” That meant constructing lighting grids above the dance space and hanging lights in odd corners of corridors and large open rooms.
“We basically built a theater out of nothing,” he says.
His RAW project is “pushing me in new directions,” Kyle says. The “And All Things Hushed” project, in turn, is opening up new areas for Real Art Ways.
“And All Things Hushed” runs June 17 to 25 at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street, Hartford. There are seven evening performances: Friday, Saturday and June 23-25 at 7 pm, with afternoon shows on Saturday and June 25 at 2:30 pm Tickets are $20, $18 members, $12 students. realartways.org,
Christopher Arnott can be reached at email@example.com,