To Hell and Back: Asesinos por una Noche

Last night's Asesinos por una Noche was an intensely dark, multimedia performance presented by local artists Alexey Taran, Carla Forte, and the Bistoury Physical Theater. It's a good guess that each person in the audience last night felt about the show they way they feel about conflict in their lives: some people are repelled by it, others numb themselves to it, and some indulge in it for thrills or just to get it out of their system.

For much of the performance at the Miami-Dade Auditorium, the audience was positioned as voyeur in what could be described as scenes from hell. On a dark, minimal stage, two dancers articulated violent muscular contractions and unstable, collapsing joints. Dance isn't quite the right word to describe it. Choreographic phrases traversed catalogues of agonies: anger, sadism, domination, fear. There was something distinctly Catholic about this piece. It was part confessional, part exorcism.

At the back of the room, a projection extended the stage into a grimy

back-alley warehouse space haunted by another performer and fractured

dialogue. While the dancers on the stage were in the throes of embodied

chaos, states of heightened anxiety were also coming through a film.

Text in the form of voice narration and subtitles, pretended to offer

something concrete -- words almost became dialogue, power relationships

were defined, or a story seemed to be developing. No coherent narrative

ever emerged, though, and within the many shadow states in the

performance lurked a vague and sinister one: disorientation.

Arguably, it's healthy to give free reign to all forms of ugliness, as a

cleansing process. Consider the way that silence of the mind, as in

meditation, inevitably reveals a cacophony of voices. By observing

rather than suppressing destructive thoughts, one becomes free from

their influence. There is a saying: "the demon screams loudest on its

way out." Sometimes, the only escape from pain is to go full-force

straight through it.

Whether or not the piece offered catharsis is up for debate, but the

work imposed no judgments about its own subject matter. The audience was

not trapped by either the space or the action on stage, and the dancers

did not even confront us with their faces. For most of the show, they

were turned away, a detail that de-personalized the whole episode as a

universal human experience. (The back is very expressive of tortured


The artists behind Asesinos por una Noche relinquished control over the

viewers' reception of the piece by creating a state of overload. It

would be impossible for any one person to entirely follow both the film

and the choreography -- they were in competition with each other.

Bits of text or dialogue might reach the attention of some people in the

audience but not others, and some no doubt would have devoted full

attention to the dancers' intense physicality at the expense of

narrative coherence (or the illusion thereof) offered by the film.

Asesinos por una Noche drew equally from popular culture and more formal

dance languages. The film and music relied heavily on horror tropes,

including creepy distorted vocals, scraping and shrieking electronic

tones, and poorly lit spaces; and most of the music was dark industrial

techno, something from a bad trip at the club. Meanwhile, the

choreography moved back and forth between beat-driven patterning and

abstract expression of emotional states, clearly rooted in contemporary


Darkness and light exist in equal measure, despite the instinct to seek

happiness, and Asesino por una Noche revels in the worst that life has

to offer, as a matter of honesty perhaps. It belongs in the same

category as a Lars Von Trier film. This may or may not be how you like

to spend your Friday nights.

-- Annie Hollingsworth of artburstmiami.com

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