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There are several definitions of the word faithful: having or showing true and constant support or loyalty; deserving trust: keeping your promises or doing what you are supposed to do, or not having sex with someone who is not your spouse or partner. For Meg Wolfe’s New Faithful Disco I believe that it is more about being true, honest and faithful to oneself. Staying true to one’s identity and/or beliefs.

Meg Wolfe in NEW FAITHFUL DISCO - Photo: Steve Gunther @CalArts
Meg Wolfe in NEW FAITHFUL DISCO – Photo: Steve Gunther @CalArts

Meg Wolfe is a Los Angeles-based choreographer/performer and creative instigator who began her career in New York. This is the second of her works to be commissioned by REDCAT, and Wolfe’s work has been seen at a multitude of venues and festivals including the Bootleg Theater, Highways Performance Space, Off Center Festival/Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and the New Original Works Festival.

New Faithful Disco had its premiere at the RedCat Theater after excerpts of it were seen in other spaces.  The audience was kept waiting in the lobby until curtain time where we find the three performers lying underneath large quilts. Once the audience was seated, the movement began.

NEW FAITHFUL DISCO - Photo: Steve Gunther @CalArts
NEW FAITHFUL DISCO – Photo: Steve Gunther @CalArts

Writing about what a dance means is always dangerous. Only the choreographer really knows the answer to that question. For me, Meg Wolfe’s New Faithful Disco is the journey from hiding from one’s identity to full acceptance of who of who one is. Performed powerfully, subtly and humorously at times by taisha paggett, Marbles Jumbo Radio and Meg Wolfe, this work is definitely thought provoking.

As the women emerge from underneath what turns out to be three quilts, they each spread one out flat, lie on it, rest and then suddenly spasm into a fetal position. They repeat this process before standing, methodically folding their quilt, and rolling it into the shape of a bedroll. As they carried these upstage I got the sense of each woman leaving home and moving on to create and shape her future.

Meg Wolfe: New Faithful Disco 1-27-2016
Meg Wolfe: New Faithful Disco 1-27-2016

We were then treated to the incredible dancing of Marbles Jumbo Radio while paggett and Wolfe repeat a simply and very rhythmic stepping phrase that tugged at our attention, but never totally disturbed it. Radio is a beautiful mover and performed movement that was powerfully kinetic, controlled but loose-limbed and I was sad to see her solo end. Luckily we were treated to equally personal and beautifully choreographed solos by paggett and Wolfe.

Each of the solos are accompanied by the other two women moving together in sometimes sensual and suggestive manner. Esteves’s powerful electronic score is artfully mixed with the Disco music of the 1970s, allowing each dancer to pay a somewhat veiled tribute to the Disco era, or with the not-so-subtle John Travolta pose from the movie Saturday Night Fever. I chuckled quietly to myself several times during the evening at a few of Wolfe’s references to that social dance genre.

NEW FAITHFUL DISCO - Photo: Steve Gunther @CalArts
NEW FAITHFUL DISCO – Photo: Steve Gunther @CalArts

Around two-thirds into the hour long work, things turned eerie and somewhat confusing when the performers donned horned head-gear. They proceeded to form tableaux suggesting strength, domination or submission, but left this reviewer puzzled as to why the horns. Were they to represent tribal identity, or the all too common act of being stigmatized for how one looks or lives one’s life? The quilts return to be used as robes and it is a potent image to see these three horned entities moving through the space draped in large heavy-looking quilts. The horns and robes are discarded and as the lights fade, the women are seen lying together; this time on top of the heaped together quilts; not hidden underneath. They are together, out and moving forward.

Meg Wolfe has collaborated with strong and talented artists for New Faithful Disco. They include the three mentioned performers and composer, as well as Lighting Designer Ellie Rabinowitz, Sound Designer John Coleman and Costume Designer Gregory Barnett.

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Jeff Slayton

Jeff Slayton has had a long and influential career as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. Born in Virginia in 1945, Slayton began dancing as a child in order to correct his condition of hip dysplasia. He enjoyed a performance career in New York dancing for Merce Cunningham, Viola Farber and others. In 1978 he moved to Long Beach, CA. where began teaching at California State University, Long Beach as a part time faculty member. He became a full time faculty member in 1986 and continued to teach at CSULB until 1999. Jeff Slayton was one of the faculty members that helped design the Dance Center at CSULB as well as develop and implement the BFA, MFA and MA degree programs. While in Long Beach, he formed his own company, Jeff Slayton & Dancers, that operated from 1978 to 1983. He continues to stage works in the Southern California area. He is also the author of two books, “The Prickly Rose: A Biography of Viola Farber” and “Dancing Toward Sanity”. For more information on Jeff Slayton please go to www.jeffslayton.org.

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