When Simone Forti first performed her News Animations — an improvisational piece balancing deliberate movement over political spoken word — back in 1986, she could never have predicted how relevant her physical imagery of voice and fluctuation patterns would be more than three decades later.
On an unembellished stage, the same evening our nation’s airports were flooding with anti-immigration-ban protesters, Forti’s 82-year-old limbs tremored in rhythmic defiance as she paced around the stage’s expanse, repeating quips and sound bites of the issues making current headlines. It was a weighted and significant opener to an evening of Radical Bodies, a retrospective of the artistic relationship between Forti, Yvonne Rainer, and Anna Halprin, the creator of task-based improvisation.
Over the course of the evening, six of their historic works were re-examined for a new generation, weaving UCSB dance students together with seasoned professionals to create a tableaux of movement that refreshingly traded in the pretty for the prolific.
At hour’s end, dancers quietly began to fill the theater’s aisles, dressed in outsized business suits as they coyly made their way onstage. One by one, they peeled back their uniformity, revealing a striking display of beautifully bare and distinctive bodies. Reams of whisper-thin paper floated above their heads, and as they grasped and crumpled the delicate canopy, the chorus of bodies fully expressed flesh as a medium for political dissent: 12 paper tigers ferocious in their stark vulnerability.