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They're thinking inside the box

At the Skirball, a freight elevator (maximum capacity: 50) becomes a platform for two performers who delight in making the most of its angles and acoustics.

November 17, 2002|Victoria Looseleaf

"The way the doors open looks like the beginning of 'Get Smart'! There's a grate that goes up and doors that slam horizontally! The acoustics are great too. When you step onto it, it vibrates and kind of echoes."

Shel Wagner Rasch is one happy dancer as she talks about her current collaborator, the freight elevator at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Along with her partner, Stefan Fabry, Rasch chose this particular bit of architecture, an 11-by-18-by-15-foot kinetic box big enough to hold 50 people (or 10,000 pounds), as the starting point for "Skirball Improvisation 3," an entry in the cultural center's new site-specific dance series.

The gunmetal-gray lift -- made by Fujitec, lighted by fluorescent bulbs, framed in stainless steel -- is usually used to move everything from stepladders to ancient Israeli artifacts between the center's three floors. Today at 2 p.m., it will contain Rasch and Fabry and their "contact improvisation" choreography -- they tend to hurl themselves and each other off walls, the floor, whatever. The elevator's corners, says Rasch, make for lots of interesting angles.

And then there's the sound. This part of the piece (it will also move outdoors) will be accompanied only by stand-up bass (Tom Peters, stationed inside) and ambient elevator vibes.

The performance begins as the elevator descends from the top floor to the basement, where audience members wait. They'll "hear it coming down and opening up and they'll also hear it close and go away at the end," Rasch says. "Every step we take makes the whole room shake. The elevator is a cool frame for a dance."

-- Victoria Looseleaf

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Skirball Cultural Center 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (323) 655-8587, $10-$15.

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