CORE Performance Company presents: SECRET at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center by Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully



I found myself a fully engaged part of SECRET’s performance space.   Not in a hard brick and mortar sort of way, but as a fluid, transient suggestion that softly defined the parameters in which the performers were confined.

February brought an invitation to attend Atlanta’s CORE Performance Company presentation of SECRET at Atlanta Georgia’s Gothic-Tudor style historic Callanwolde mansion.  Now one of the city’s premier fine arts centers in the Druid Hills neighborhood.  The experience was delightful from the intertwining choreography by Artistic Director Sue Schroeder and guest artist Becky Valls, to the live accompaniment, stunning surroundings and the unique ambiance in which we enjoyed and participated in the show.


To fully appreciate SECRET, traditional ideas of what an audience experience should be like had to be suspended.  No passive hiding in the dark permitted, we had to live and breathe with the dancers, following and shifting, changing from section to movement to room to be privy to their abstract secrets.  The audience embarked on a learning curve as we moved from room to room with each section following its own non-traditional set of rules.  The journey required adjustments and accommodation along the way by the shy and, at times, vulnerable audience.

Dancers are a special breed of artist, and being close as they perform feels intimate. The seven dancers dressed in loud multi-print costumes with their shoes tucked under their arms, appeared as diverse in shape and movement as a cross section of the spectators following their path through the cavernous archways of ancient Callanwolde.  They were, however, unified in the mood they created, performing as a quiet introspective ensemble and politely beckoned us into their world.  Each dancer drew us into their world for a multitude of reasons.  Sometimes it was the choreography or their proximity.  Other times it was the structure of the rooms and where the observer was located in them that brought particular phrases or actions forefront.


Steffanie Boettle gave an intense performance utilizing gothic features of the house, at times clinging onto the pillars and an ornate door frame in a side room.  Her space was defined in the corner by stools the bashful audience may, or may not, have been sitting in and the ever present theme of unworn shoes.

A favorite section of SECRET for me took place in a specious but tangent ballroom experienced by the audience from outside through the heavy door frames. The story was perforated by the structure of the mansion and we had to shift and move in our seats to catch juicy glimpses of action. This gave each audience member a unique and personal experience of the choreography.  A magnificent display of full phrasing by dancer Derrick Causey drew my eye as he entered my particular line of vision and just caught fragments and punctuation from the ensemble in my peripheral.  Like peeping Toms, each of us observing a completely different piece of the puzzle, but none able to have a completed picture.

I am a fan of site specific work that brings me into a deeper richer experiential realm and ART that teaches me how to experience it.  This is exactly what CORE performance has done at Callanwolde.  It was satisfaction on multiple levels!   The future promises much from this Company and its performers.

CORE’s next stop is in Huston, their second home, on April 18th at the Museum of Fine Arts.  But they will be back in Atlanta with us again on Friday, April 26 for the kick-off of EnCORE: A social gathering for the arts.  They are also available at their studio in Decatur for lunch break yoga sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon. Then you can catch them performing again in Westside Atlanta at The Goat Farm Arts Center, May 9-11 for a collaboration in new work created by Amanda K. Miller-Fasshauer.

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