Mala Forma Improvisatory Dance Troupe Takes Over Bread & Salt

As the April contribution to Project [BLANK]’s edgy Salty Series, the contemporary dance troupe Mala Forma presented The Cancelled School of Performance Friday at Barrio Logan’s Bread & Salt venue. Choreographer, lead dancer, sound designer, cornet player, as well as costume designer, Mala Forma Director Justin Morrison served as the company’s undisputed source of inspiration and direction.

Mala Forma dancers [photo (c.) Robbie Bui]

Morrison and his troupe of eight dancers embodied improvisational dance on a massive scale in a two-hour plus spectacle that vigorously embraced Bread & Salt’s generous performance space. When the audience members entered the performance space–carrying their chairs and setting them up in random fashion–they encountered a sole figure standing in the center of the room completely covered in black tape and taped securely to the floor. After a 30-minute prelude of vigorous heavy metal guitar fused with electronic music, the figure began to move, and soon the dancers, uniformly clad in black,  took to the floor to slowly liberate the taped figure. A friendly, small dog also took part in the determined yet highly individual movements of the dancers. An industrial-level hum without discernible pulse provided a neutral sound curtain for the dancers, although Morrison sounded random sonic volleys above the din from a cornet he played as he circulated around the room.

Opening Scene of ‘The Cancelled School of Performance’ [Photo (c.) Robbie Bui]

While some dancers were barefoot, other wore street shoes, and although the dancers appeared to act upon individual motivation, they occasionally formed  groups and small huddles. Headstands with dancers balancing against the room’s brick walls and elaborate pushups on the floor complemented complex steps in the center of the room.

Justin Morrison as celebrant [Photo (c.) Robbie Bui]

In the evening’s climactic act, using a large machete Morrison ritualistically sliced heads of cabbage on a tall improvised altar, and the dancers scattered the pieces throughout the room. For this ritual, the digital music morphed into sounds with a clearly rhythmic pulse, which heightened the dramatic thrust of this cabbage communion.

Mala Forma’s cabbage ritual [Photo (c.) Robbie Bui]

Members of Morrison’s troupe included Gisela Castro, Amanda Grunloh, Sarah Jaffe, Jennifer Oliver, Charlene Penner, Nicole Roerick, Faez Shahrezaei and Wio Watanabe.

This production of ‘The Cancelled School of Performance’ by Mala Forma was presented by Project [BLANK] at Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan on April 19, 2024.

Leave a Comment