Black Label Movement returns to the Cowles Center this weekend for the premiere of “Whack-A-Mole,” Carl Flink’s new investigation of the military industrial complex, as well as a reprise of “Field Songs,” which debuted at the Southern Theater in 2009.
The title “Whack-A-Mole” comes from a military euphemism, coined by Senator McCain in 2006, describing how, in an insurgency, the military clears out one force only to have more return after U.S. troops leave. An article in the New York Times of that year stated that McCain used the term at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. He later explained on Meet the Press that he was making an analogy to the vintage arcade game, “where the head — you bang it down, and another head pops up someplace else.”
For Flink, the euphemism, which was used to justify putting additional troops in Iraq, serves as a “particularly strong signal of our country’s state of endless war,” he says. At the same time, most Americans live in an environment where there are few reminders of the wars our country fights. “We walk down our streets, and we don’t feel at war,” he says.
The new work consists of 17 performers, a landscape of bodies that Flink says contains a certain mass and weight due to its large size. The ensemble is made up of a diverse group of dancers with a range of athleticism and training.
The work isn’t meant to be literal, but rather expressionistic. At times, the men and women are divided. Others, the group seem to be in a boot-camp circumstance, or they appear more as a large throng of humanity. Flink’s wife, Emilié Plauché Flink, acts as a kind of seraph, appearing angelic at first, perhaps invoking the sense that she’s a victim, but later she turns that victim status on its head.
Set designer Annie Katsura Rollins, who has collaborated with Black Label Movement in the past, has created a backdrop for the piece. Greg Brosofske, another frequent collaborator with the company, has created an original soundscape, making this the sixth collaboration he’s done with Flink. Sage and Ivey Award winner Marcus Dilliard designed the lights.
The second half of the evening sees the return of Flink’s 2009 work, “Field Songs,” performed on fresh sod that covers the stage, with live music by Minneapolis roots rockers the Jinnies. It’s a celebratory, energetic piece that will make you want to get up and dance.
BLM’s sixth season marks a new generation of movers, as several familiar faces have moved on, including Eddie Oroyan, who’s now performing with Wym Vandekaybus’s Ultima Vez in Belgium. The company now includes dancers from all over the country, as well as six University of Minnesota alumni, where Flink is the chair of the theater arts department, as well as three current U of M students.
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