“I do not put on a play in order to teach others what I already know. It is after the production is completed and not before that I am wiser. Any method which does not itself reach out into the unknown is a bad method.” — Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999), legendary Polish theatre director and theorist.

This Friday, Four Stages premieres at the Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (3400 Main Street). The years in the making collaborative production is the brainchild of LA-based dancer Dola Baroni and Houston visual artist and composer Wolf William Say. Written under the influence of Jerzy Grotowski’s Towards a Poor Theatre and in the spirit of ceremony, Baroni will dance four acts as a god of human error to a score composed by Say. The energy between the two artists is a tangible force, and the creative duo go beyond passion with this performance in the way they present the audience with beauty and conviction.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Say is a visual artist and writer born in Houston. He spent several formative years in New York before returning in 2005; he has exhibited photography and short films for the past ten years. His work is most often a comment and tribute to the physical body — both its duration and newness — explored through cycles of identity and anonymity. His practice is focused on repetitive training. From 2006 to 2016, the self-taught artist published artwork on the Internet under many pseudonyms, and he produced work often daily.

Baroni, working as a visual artist and dancer, has been performing since 1994 and exhibiting photographic work since 2004. Baroni has studied many forms of dance, including Butoh, Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Flamenco, Middle Eastern dance, and Indian dance. She is the founder and director of LA Dance Family, a performance and dance company featuring both dancers and non-dancers. The company’s original form began in 2008 as an open-to-all dance workshop designed for body awareness and strengthening, with specific focus on Butoh practices. In 2011, Baroni shifted the focus of the company to choreography and performance and re-formed the group as LA Dance Family. The company most recently performed a piece choreographed by Baroni to honor Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata on his birthday this year — March 9, 2017. When asked how long the two had been working on this concept, they both smiled and laughed with the response, “Around ten years I’d assume?”

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

“The show is vision-driven — capital “V” — and I can only take any credit for cultivating the space for it. It’s also danced and choreographed by Dola Baroni. Her movement is the heartbeat of the piece. I think of Four Stages as an investigation, or castigation, of the farce of social role,” says director and composer Say. “I set out to investigate the most dominant organizing principle of my lifetime: industrialism. You can sense in the music that it became a meditation.” 

Say and Baroni first met when Baroni visited Houston in 2008. Both filmmakers and photographers, they recognized eachother’s rigorous habits and forged a bond. They have maintained an artistic dialogue since, producing films, a remote improvisational performance, and a generative rapport that led to Four Stages.

The performance will be presented for three nights only, with an all-inclusive workshop on Sunday at noon. The workshop will begin with a short open conversation about dance, a full body warmup, and an exploration of the space for our movement. The group will work together, as well as partners and solo, practicing dance techniques and ignoring dance techniques. For the latter part of the workshop, participants will practice dance with plants. The participants are encouraged to bring a plant of their own, and the day will be open to all with no dance experience necessary. The weekend-long performance will be sure to present a decade-worth of creative brainstorming and will present the viewer with an exquisite experience not to be missed.

Four Stages will be held at MATCH in Match Box 2 (3400 Main Street) from Friday, Oct. 6 to Sunday at Oct. 8 at 8 pm each night. The Sunday workshop is from noon to 2 pm.

For tickets, workshop, and information, click here