World premiere of “Late Nights on Air” reflects binaries in society

Choreographer Jonah Bokaer and his international dancing troupe took the Jorgensen stage on Friday, Oct. 19 for the world premiere of his new routine, “Late Nights on Air,” and three performances of older work. (Julie Spillane/The Daily Campus)

Choreographer Jonah Bokaer and his international dancing troupe took the Jorgensen stage on Friday, Oct. 19 for the world premiere of his new routine, “Late Nights on Air,” and three performances of older work. Bokaer created “Late Nights on Air” in collaboration with musicians, composers and architect Charles Renfro, who contributed the use of projection to give the performance new layers. Bokaer and Renfro strove to use their performance to break down many binaries created by society.

“We live in a divided world,” Bokaer said. “Charles has worked with the theme of doubling in a beautiful way.”

Binaries were created through two large screens hanging on the stage divided by a large rod of lights, which moved robotically during the performance. At points, images of distinct binaries appeared on the screens: The democratic donkey and the republican elephant, the Facebook like and unlike button and bathroom symbols for men and women. Over time, the images began to overlap. At another point, two images of different outlets were displayed, European on the left, American on the right. For several minutes an unseen figure tried to force an American plug into the European outlet.

Other aspects of the show also contributed to the sense of division. In the first segment, two violinists stood on opposite sides of the stage. They played the same music, but one slightly ahead of the other. The large screens also acted as a dividing factor down the middle of the stage. The various actions of the dancers also contributed to the themes of the performance.

“I liked the group piece more,” Katrina Charitonuk, third-semester biomedical engineering major said. “But at the same time, I never knew who to look at.”

“Late Nights on Air” began with two dancers, but eventually all seven came on stage. Sometimes dancers would work together in a duet or trio while at other points would do their own thing, oblivious to the others. Sometimes they would synchronize, at other times seven completely different things happened. At one point, a couple dancers chased each other around stage.

The first three dances, distinct from the world premiere, featured a solo and several duets. The first dancer was a single figure dressed in black making abrupt movements to the music of a plucked string. Second, two men danced to background noises that swelled and softened throughout the piece. At times the two men appeared to be fighting, at other points supporting one another. In the third, a woman dressed in white danced with a woman dressed in black with music that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a movie score. Although each dance was created independently of “Late Nights on Air,” the set, including the light robot and the projection screens, was incorporated into the first three performances as well.

Although the audience didn’t include a large amount of students, a number of outside community members attended, including Governor Dannel Malloy and his wife, Cathy Malloy. Many stayed for a Q and A with Bokaer and Renfro after the performance.

“The premier piece I thought was really quite outstanding,” Dannel Malloy said. “It’s a large cast and the music was outstanding.”

The combination of techniques used by Bokaer, between music, light, set, projection and dance, created a piece that audience members claimed they’d never seen the like of, but were glad to see coming to a center of education like the University of Connecticut.

“It definitely was not what I expected,” Charitonuk said, “but it was very interesting and unique.”


Alex Houdeshell is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.