Opening Nights: Man on the Beach

In their newest dance piece, Corrie Befort and her Salt Horse partners use simple tools to enchanting effect.

Graczyk, with Wazel at right, searches for her partner.

In one of her first shows, Corrie Befort made theatrical magic with nothing more than light reflected off a pan filled with water. She’s still using simple tools to enchanting effect today. In this newest piece from her Salt Horse ensemble (with partners Beth Graczyk and composer Angelina Baldoz), a trio of men is in retreat from their daily lives, turning toward their past until they become stuck in time and reality dissolves into a series of disconnected moments. The imagery becomes more allusive, less grounded in the world of cause and effect; the activities and characters make sense through accumulation rather than narrative.

Jens Wazel, who stands a good head taller than any of the other performers, spends most of the work bent over or curved in on himself, clutching a framed picture like a shield and taking an infinite number of tiny steps forward and back that never seem to get anywhere. Kepler Swanson and Michael Rioux appear either with a head swathed in plastic tubes or in a suit jacket built up at the shoulders to make the image of a headless man. The rest of the cast contribute to their dream world, in a series of non-sequitur encounters.

Graczyk wanders with purpose through the space several times, seeming to find a connection with an “invisible” partner behind the side curtain. Like the other gentle tricks throughout the show, this one is a simple illusion, as another dancer supports her from behind the fabric, swathed in black like a bunraku puppeteer. Befort attaches herself to other parts of the world as well, appearing perched on top of Wazel’s head and clutching his arm as she flings herself into a series of back arches. Allie Hankins, Danny Herter, and Shannon Stewart wear a variety of bird costumes, picking their way across the stage.

Amid this collection of dreamy vignettes, started by a whistling teakettle, a pair of empty shoes follow a woman across the stage. The “trick” is laid out in front of the audience as the empty shoes are attached to fishing line, pulled along the floor by the woman who set the entire thing up in plain view. And yet we are willing to believe.