Contemporary dance company Aloft Dance Theatre is getting into the groove this spring with a special performance at the Museum of Ventura County. On Thursday, May 4, Aloft will present “Is It Art?” — an eclectic program of movement and drama that challenges as much as it entertains. “I have no interest in a typical dance concert,” says Pamela Pilkenton, dancer and founding director of NAMBA Performing Arts Space, the resident home of Aloft.
There’s very little that’s typical about this performance. Choreographed by Devin Fulton (who, like Pilkenton, is a veteran of the Plexus Dance Theater) with a cast of 23, it moves indoors and out, from the event pavilion to the plaza and back again, with some movement among the audience, too. Pilkenton likens it to a “roving” concert. Transition between pieces is also choreographed, so the setup team — playfully dubbed the “space tribe” — becomes part of the overall performance. “The whole space is like a black-box theater experience,” Pilkenton explains. In describing the style, she says that “There’s nothing naughty, but it is a little sophisticated.”
The avant garde work has found a suitable venue. The recently renovated museum has introduced a new gallery, “Is It Art?” where various objects are showcased that may not fall into typical fine-art categories, such as paintings or sculpture, but may possess artistic merit all the same. A teacup, a wooden spool, a carved frame and a photograph of an unusual flower are some of the objects currently in the gallery (which will be changed out periodically) that museum visitors may vote on. By asking the question, it challenges us to consider what makes something art — or not.
Aloft intends to do the same with the “Is It Art” performance. “Is it art?” Pilkenton asks pointedly. “Is this performance art? Dance? Theater? A sculpture that moves?” Attendees will have to judge for themselves.
Fans of dance — contemporary dance in particular — may find it easier to wrap their minds around the experience. Pilkenton, however, hopes to engage those less familiar with the art form as well. “There’s no dance audience in Ventura anymore,” she says. “How do you build that dance audience?”
By giving them performances to attend, of course. “Hopefully we’ll get people who never thought they’d go to a dance concert, and they’ll want to see more,” Pilkenton says.
“Is It Art?” will be performed on Thursday, May 6, at the Museum of Ventura County, 100 E. Main St., Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 628-9250 or visit http://nambaarts.com/events/is-it-art.