Arts & Above, a dance-based performance duo, is opening a new season in a new artistic home.
The duo are Kate Jordan and Bruno Augusto. Their residency for the 2017-18 season is the MASC Studio at 1200 Shakespeare St.
Like all of their work, season-opener "The Things" isn't properly described as a dance performance. The couple, who moved to Missoula from the Bay Area in 2016, are trained dancers in various forms, but branch out extensively in their Arts & Above shows to choreography, performance art, music and elements of theater or storytelling.
"The Things" originally began as a solo piece for Augusto called "Build." In its expanded form, which clocks in at roughly 40 minutes, both Augusto and Jordan will perform in the open space of the renovated MASC Studio.
The raw materials are 72 brightly colored plastic crates. The concept, as the name suggests, relates to minimalism.
Augusto said it poses questions: "When is enough enough? When is too much, too much? We as humans find ourselves sometimes with too many things in our lives." Not necessarily physical, either. They could be emotions or thoughts.
"The Things" is a duet, but the two don't really interact with each other. They've generated two contemplative storylines that are balanced so they don't distract the eye when the other takes the lead.
Augusto made a sound score that has mantra-like repetitions. Jordan said the repetitions can sometimes serve as a jumping-off point, when a "character" is ready to try something new or unknown.
The two are often asked how much their pieces are improvisation versus set choreography. They use both. In the case of "The Things," the sound score guides them to specific points of action, but there's room for them both to make spontaneous decisions — the piece is different each time they perform it.
"It's allowing enough space for that potential to surface in the work while having a map between the two of us, and a map through time that guides the movement choices," Jordan said.
This is Arts & Above's second season in Missoula. Their first year, they held an artistic residency at the Downtown Dance Collective. This year, they were invited by MASC Studio, which is home to Moksha Aerial Studio Collective. Their space is equipped for its own classes and performances with aerial silk, fire-spinning, juggling and more. Arts & Above will have a casual environment for "The Things," and encourages people to stay afterward and share their thoughts or questions.
They've branched out to include performances at Imagine Nation Brewing Co., worked with Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre, are scheduling youth dance summer camps, and their own work.
They've conducted a version of "The Things" with children, and said kids intuitively understand the relationship between "building" with the blocks and telling a story: Some are meticulous in constructing an object, others want to knock them over, and some want to be communal workers.