Radio III / ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ is most easily described as “beautifully uncomfortable,” though this barely brushes the surface of what the performance really is.
Radio III is a contemporary dance and music performance created by Elisa Harkins, Zoë Oluch, and Hanako Hoshimi-Caines. The piece explores themes of colonialism, and the cycle of life in the past, present, and future through an Indigenous lens. The dances and score portray an Indigenous reaction to the way colonialism affects the way we think about life, death, and the limits put on our perspective. The show’s venue, On the Boards, was an excellent fit for the nature of the performance; the stage is minimalistic in a way that directly complements the performance. Walking into the theater, an open-white space and a foggy haze in the air greets the audience, welcoming us into a dream-like state.
The pacing of the piece was wonderfully erratic, with drawn-out individual movements followed by fast-paced explosions of dance and color. The first section of the performance deprived the audience of stimulation with the three dancers dressed in white, silently leading each other across the identically colored stage, acting out a nameless scene. Their movements were slow and isolated from one another, seemingly unsure and fearfully curious. They began to vaguely act out what I interpreted as a blurred combination of the stages of life and the stages of our society, though I’m certain every single person in that room interpreted the dance differently. The first section ended with a microphone being lowered from the ceiling into Harkins’ hand, and an explosion of sound filled the theater. The past fifteen-or-so minutes had been taken up by a heavy silence, so when this first song began, its sound appeared magnified. The stage erupted with an explosive burst of reds, yellows, and pinks as the lights turned on and the bass-heavy electronic music began. The juxtaposition of the minimalist choreography and the intense sensory experience of the score (written and performed by Harkins) threw off the expectations of the viewer.
The show leaned on a sense of unpredictability, easily being mistaken for uncomfortability, though the movements made by the dancers felt natural and familiar. The dance acted out the process of growth, a vulnerable and unapologetically human state that calls up a familiarity within the audience. Oluch and Hoshimi-Caines’ movements and interactions with each other felt new and unsure, sometimes even painful, though the process of growth is one of nature. This struck a chord with me as a young person, as I am constantly in a state of growth and uncertainty.
The entire show is short—only fifty-five minutes long—though the previously mentioned erratic pacing seemed to warp time and left me walking out of On the Boards unsure how much time had passed since I’d entered. The first section seemed to stretch on far too long. I was in love with the way the performance utilized silence, the dancers moving only to the rhythms of the audience’s breaths and letting some of the senses take a break to fully appreciate the art. However, there is a fine line between simplicity and boredom, and Radio III danced on this line. I found myself relieved when the score finally began and my senses were given something to digest. Perhaps this is what Radio III was trying to convey; the addiction to sensory stimulation in regards to art is a highly debated subject, and Radio III felt like both a mockery and a tribute to this concept.
The score from Radio III was intense and repetitive. Harkins combined Indigenous folk and EDM (electronic dance music) with thought-provoking lyrics in English, Mvskoke, and Cherokee languages, creating a colorful and rhythmic production that challenged genre borders. Songs like "Cate Owiw (I am red)" depicted a reaction to the atrocities of the United States and the struggles with personal identity that these cultural clashes create. The lyrics are in Muscogee Creek and translate to, “I am red, I am blue, the nation is wicked, it is a nightmare, my heart is sick, I do not feel fine, do something, anything, teach, resist, rise up.” My personal favorite of the songs in Radio III is "Peyote". Harkins’ performance was breathtaking; her voice was powerful and rich, and her body language and facial expressions were compelling.
I believe one of the biggest challenges in dance is balancing audio and visual elements. I often feel one draws attention away from the other and it is rare for a piece to successfully balance the two. Radio III does this balancing act expertly. The dance and music feed into each other through juxtaposition, creating art that is much more than the sum of its parts.
Radio III ‘s playbill describes the show as “beautifully uncomfortable” though it is best described as an unpredictable rollercoaster of stunning dance and colorful scoring, bringing to light conflicts of colonialism and Indigenous futurism. If I could turn back time on how to spend my Thursday night, I would always choose to see Radio III.
Radio III / ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ took place at the On the Boards on September 22, 2022 and September 24, 2022. For more information see here.