After almost two years of rehearsals, I have just finished a weekend of Pie Equals Square performances, and the audiences in Minneapolis seemed to enjoy the work! Paula Mann, the choreographer, creates like mad! In fact, I think she scrapped about 2/3 (if not more) of the movement that had once been in the piece–vehemently rejecting movement that that she had seen before. The resulting piece kept audiences engaged from start to finish of this 50 minute piece, some even saying that they wanted more.
In the City Pages, Linda Shapiro wrote,
When biomedical engineer Gerry Timm commissioned choreographer Paula Mann to create a dance, he gave her carte blanche to do anything she wanted. So she started with him. To be precise, she started with his tangled processes of cogitation and how they relate to hers as an artist. At a recent rehearsal of Mann’s Pie Equals Square, five terrific dancers loped, lurched, and looped through the multiple equations lodged in Timm’s brain, stuffed his mouth with the paper on which they were written, and even squared the circle. They found elegant visceral solutions to knotty problems, and not just abstractions. Mann’s sophisticated patterning depicts a society in control, in complicity, and always on the verge of chaos. A witty score by Hans Kruger and projections by Steve Paul complement this whimsical foray into a world where the rules have changed and irreverence abounds.
The piece begins with Gerry Timm, the commissioner and retired biomedical engineer, rolling on the floor under a projection (by Steve Paul) of moving mathematic formulas, precisely maintained within the bright orange square that is taped on the floor. His recorded voice tells us about steps in what, I think, are his actual experiments. The five dancers slowly approach the square’s perimeter and with a bang of Hans Kruger’s music our hands begin to vibrate just within the light of the projection. I can’t wait to see a video to see how this appears!
As the piece unfolds, the dancers oscillate between functioning as Gerry’s subjects and figments of his imagination. Sometimes absurd and hilarious, and other times frustrating and sad, it seemed to be somewhat of a choose (whether conscious or not) your own adventure for the audience. While talking with audience members after performances, it seemed that some clung to the hilarity, and others to the angst. It seems that nearly everyone appreciated the structure of the choreography.
For me, the piece lands between experimentation/data and relationships/emotion in motion. Motif’s are potently repeated and varied, like they might be in the scientific process, but it’s more complex than that. We fight, laugh, play and wonder together. The piece, inspired by Gerry’s (and sometimes Paula’s) memories and seasoned by all of our lives interacting together in the studio.