When William Blake was 4, he saw God's face at the window and screamed. Soon after, he encountered less terrifying visions--the prophet Ezekiel in the fields, heavenly angels in a tree--and grew up to create poems, paintings and illuminated manuscripts of daunting spiritual fervor before his death in 1827.
In Marsee Auditorium at El Camino College on Friday, choreographer Tandy Beal sought to evoke the extremes of his life and art in her fascinating multimedia epic "Outside Blake's Window." Reflecting the duality of innocence and experience in Blake's best-known collection of poems, she juxtaposed a child-Blake (Darrin Glesser) with an adult-Blake (Erik Stern), showing them interacting and learning from one another as if father and son.
Other dualities shaped the 90-minute piece: earthbound group dancing versus an aerial trapeze solo, for instance, or live fire juggling versus projected rain. Beal has long held the secret of creating stage magic from the simplest of means, and one dance sequence superbly conveyed a childlike sense of wonder through displaying three sets of identical twins.
With music by 10 composers and just as many technical credits, "Outside Blake's Window" nevertheless emerged as a unified statement about the visionary artist's alternately miraculous and precarious existence in this world. Unfortunately, most of Beal's formal choreography did its job without rising to the level of her inspired directorial feats.
A woman who dared choreograph fire should have been able able to shape human movement into something hotter than the academic modern dance performed by Beal's Santa Cruz-based company--especially when Blake's most luminous watercolor images kept appearing in the huge central window of Norvid Roos' resourceful set and bathing the whole auditorium in their radiance.