LOS ANGELES — It’s sunset at the Getty Center, and the breathtaking views of the Santa Monica Mountains and the city below are awash in warm tones. The natural light pairs perfectly with a troupe of dancers and musicians dressed in shades of gold and brown, who are currently performing on a terrace overlooking the central garden lawn. This is a preview “Bridge-s,” a new work directed and composed by Solange and choreographed by modernist dance duo Gerard & Kelly.
Taking place on November 16 and 17, Solange’s performance “Bridge-s” is paired with a curated series of short films and talks centered around the theme of “transitions through time.” While addressing the crowd at the Getty, Solange expressed gratitude for letting her “enter new planes” in composition and music. In the invitation to the preview to this event, she is not limited to being described as a musician, but is declared a “visual artist.”
The performance, which will take place four times over the weekend, is the newest entry in Solange’s series of interdisciplinary works that respond to famous museums’ architectures. In 2017, she took over the Guggenheim in New York, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, flooding its spiraling ramps with brass musicians and dancers, and required that the audience wear all white. In this iteration at the Getty, Richard Meier’s Italian villa-inspired fortress and the California landscape serve as Solange’s muse.
Solange’s composition, titled “Counting,” initially feels like jazz, but instead of free-flowing improvisation, the music takes on a rigid structure, the notes sounding like they follow a repetitive order of operations. Two vocalists occasionally puncture the orchestra — made up of horns, upright bass, keys, drums, and guitar — with feminine, guttural cries that powerfully ricochet off the stone structure.
Gerard & Kelly’s choreography reads as a tense relationship between control and collaboration, dominance and submission. The dancers, many CalArts alumni, begin relationships and evolve with one another. They throw their hands around each other as if about to embrace, but never touch. They are trapped in cycles, lashing out to slap one another before returning to intimate positions.
The moments of domination border on cruelty; a dancer walks over another lying on the floor, making sure to step on their body while in stride. But the moments of collaboration are tender. A braided sequence of trust falls between three performers, one slumps over, another catches, and the third propels the subjects into a different role. At some moments, the dancers herald the trombonists and fold their bodies into a throne, raising the musicians above the crowd while they continue playing without missing a beat.
Sometimes, the music stops, but the dancers move with the same vigor and, in unison, chant their choreographic steps, one through six. Their words echo through the atrium, rippling off the stone columns and high ceilings. Briefly, orchestral leader John Key takes his drumsticks and raps on a pillar, transforming architecture into an instrument.
More musicians emerge from the many hidden corners of the Getty Center, spilling out onto balconies that overhang cliffs, or blasting their instruments from across the campus, clearly heard but impossible to see with the setting sun blinding their bodies into silhouettes. Dancers worm out of narrow corridors, down staircases, and part the crowds as they make their way to the stage. The vocalists wear no shoes, their feet planted into the cold marble.
Within the walls of the indestructible Getty Center, famous for its fortress-like architecture that has withstood forest fires and floods, we’re given a warning. “The house we built could crumble at any time,” the dancers recite and repeat, their voices reverberating before coming to a silence, the language itself reduced to rubble.
“Bridge-s” will be performed at the Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Dr, Bel-Air, Los Angeles) on November 16 and 17. There will also be a series of film screenings and a lecture by philosopher Kodwo Eshun. A full schedule of events can be found on the Getty’s website.