Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call” by Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully


The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence

The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.

The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.

“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”

As ambient as the music, the rest of the dancers, Alex Abarca, Anna Bracewell, Clair Molla and Erik Thurmond, have been waiting Stage Left as though lounging during a long international layover. Stoically lined up, they join the action adding texture and design to the space flipping their hands up and down in a staccato fashion.

The ensemble begins to interact with long attitudes and soft toes. As the audience gets lost in the intertwining duets, we find ourselves being interrupted by ringing coming from the old fashioned telephone booth. Molla answers with a hesitant “Hello.”

This was a highlight of the evening as the dancers start voicing questions, turning the soundtrack into a cacophony of live sound, almost getting tangled up in the long mic cord. When they just can’t seam to reach the mysterious person on the other end the mic, is put back on the receiver and the journey begins again.

What I really enjoy about Beckham’s piece is her ability to transform the space by manipulating movement. At one point, the dancers lie down and roll as though they are on an incline, while Bracewell struggles to keep them from falling off whatever imaginary platform they are on. In another moment, the ensemble is flat to the audience walking and eventually running back and forth, engaging us as though we are all across the tracks at Little Five Points Marta train station. While the Split Flip creates a “thought bubble” with the repetition of “Sorry… Sorry… Sorry… So… So… So… So…”As though we are all part of the roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble of rush hour traffic.

The moments that stuck with me, the one I find myself revisiting and trying to make sense of (which, by the way, for me, is the tell-tale sign of a fine artist), are a series of trios between Abarca, Bracewell and Thurmond. Abarca, as an engaged voyeur, keeps pushing Bracewell and Thurmond together creating these forced but very intimate and awkward encounters. These are the moments I found myself investing my own personal experience. The brief but intimate relationships create by long distance travel, trying to keep the relationship with the partner you have been with for too long OR that long distance lover where you just don’t have the physical time to get past the awkwardness of a new relationship. The dancers’ performance with their weird, strained and yet beautiful investment in these moments allowed me to leave my body behind and mentally become part of the dance.

“A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”
“Let Me Let You Go”

Going to see dance is not something everyone thinks of doing and they should. The Lucky Penny, Blake Beckham and her cast of incredible technicians and performers is an exemplary example of what Atlanta has to offer in terms of Art and Entertainment. Grab your friend, grab your lover, children or that guest you really don’t get to see that often and see this show.

If you, “Blink… Blink… Blink… Blink… Blink” you will miss it.

Thurs. July 24 at 8 pm | Fri. July 25 at 8 pm | Sat. July 26 at 8 pm | Sun. July 27 at 5 pm
Thurs. July 31 at 8 pm | Fri. August 1 at 8 pm | Sat. August 2 at 8 pm

DramaTech Theater, Georgia Institute of Technology, 349 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta, GA
$25 general admission | $15 students, artists, seniors, military | $10 with Georgia Tech ID

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