Artistic inspiration can spring from the most obscure experiences. But according to choreographer Autumn Mist Belk, her new work didn't originate from foreign temples, subatomic particles or cubist art. She got hers by shopping on eBay.
The result is Indulge, an evening-length work by the multimedia dance company Code f.a.d. that premieres at Reynolds Theater this week.
"I was trying to buy a Louis Vuitton purse," Belk recalls, "and since there are a lot of counterfeits out there, I was trying to do some research to make sure it was authentic." In the process, she stumbled upon an online forum for purses—and couldn't believe the experience. "There were thousands of people on there, writing to all these other people; spending this much of their energy—most of their lives—on something most of us might spend maybe a couple of hours on, at the most."
With more digging, she realized "this happens in everything—and the online forums are out there to prove it. I could see how something might start innocently enough and then go completely out of hand."
The resulting piece, incorporating original video and archival film by Colby Hoke, still photography by Stephen Aubuchon and music by G. Todd Buker, focuses on what Belk calls "five core indulgences"—gourmet food and drink, high fashion, powerful business, cutting-edge technology and love.
"As we went forward, the piece took a very dark turn," Belk recalls. "It became more about addictions, ways in which people are slowly killing ourselves."
Belk created Code f.a.d. last year; the initials in the company's name reference the differing genres—film, visual art and dance—that it attempts to fuse together on stage. The group shared the stage with other companies in a tour with the North Carolina Dance Festival last year, and it appeared in a showcase at the North Carolina Dance Alliance.
But Indulge is Code f.a.d.'s first full-length performance. The Durham dates precede other scheduled performances—including those Belk plans for New York during the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters later this season.
Belk spotlights the contributions of her collaborators as we speak. "Hoke was a real force in exploring the dark side of the piece," she notes, before crediting Aubuchon's images with changing our viewpoint—and relationships—with the items in his viewfinder. "He came up with new ways of looking at the subjects," she says. "Some of these things you can't distinguish as something we'd want to eat. If you magnify a piece of steak so it's 15 feet long, you may not like what you see."
All are part of a work apparently intent on finding out just how appetizing our indulgences are once we've had a closer look at them.
Shared showcases in the early fall are a rubric of the regional dance scene. In Our Own Backyard, this weekend's gathering of companies and individual choreographers and dancers hosted by Raleigh's Even Exchange Dance Theater, promises a tantalizing first glimpse of another emerging professional company in the region. Former Pilobolus dancer Gaspard Louis has set up shop in Durham; his company, Gaspard&Dancers, will be touring the country this year with new works. A $5 ticket gets you a good close-up look at them before their first full-length concert, Dec. 6, in Duke's Reynolds Theater. The evening also features work by Durham's Blank Slate Dance, choreographers Courtney Greer, Katherine Stark, Michael Haney, Eleanor Smith and Carolyn Usanis. Not to mention a piece by Martin Middle School Dance Company. Hey—start 'em young, right?