Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix are the five musicians represented in Atlanta's Gathering Wild Dance Company's production of 27. The "27 Club" refers to musicians who all died — tragically, mostly through drug and alcohol-related incidents — at the young age of 27. Jerylann Warner and visual designer Rachel Jackson came up with the idea and worked with choreographers Jerylann Warner and Charles "Bubba" Carr to create the piece. The hour-long performance by the 12 company members is gritty and, at times, elegant and lyrical, though the performance is somewhat uneven.
The program is divided into five sections. Red and pink floodlights highlight the passion, fear, and destruction. Music is at times lyrical, but sometimes the jarring head-banging feels like the dull throb of a headache (or heartache). In "Morrison," the grey and burgundy-clad dancers (costume design by Sharon Miller) keep the tension taut while dancing to "Indian Summer," and the interesting, unexpected movements in "Light My Fire" accent the coolness of the music. The Cobain section opens with a huddled mass of dancers attired in short periwinkle ballet dresses swimming against the current of pain to the song "Something in the Way." The dance seems a struggle of loneliness and isolation, with homoerotic undertones.
Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" is, appropriately, a bad girl's dance of seduction that's both dangerous and self-destructive. Three dancers dressed in black lingerie slink around stage. The choreography is good; effective pauses and hard stares reflect the importance of moments of stillness within movement.
There's a brief flash of (seeming) nudity when a dancer first appears getting dressed in tie-dyed nightgown in Joplin's "Maybe" (dancers actually have flesh-colored tights underneath.) White flowing costumes reflect the ethereal quality of dancing in Hendrix's "Little Wing," while bright tops convey the psychedelic tone of "Purple Haze."
Props are interesting and eccentric — wooden box crates in Cobain's "Milk It," feathers in Hendrix's "Little Wing," chairs in Joplin's "Soap Box" (a bit of humor in the angst-filled show — three girls come in panting after running, languidly straddle chairs and stomp feet. The dance suggests the utter exhaustion of the empowered female and earned the audience's laughter.)
Throughout, use of clapping, audible breaths, and pregnant pauses enhance the sound. Sometimes the dancing continues in silence even after the music is done, conveying the lingering presence of those who are truly great.
The dancing, at its best, is innovative and eclectic, pulsing with energy. However, it sometimes feels flat and out of sync. Although the idea is fresh and original, the execution is, at times, lackluster. Occasionally the movements begin to blur together and look the same.
It's worth seeing, however, for its courage and strangeness. The music and movements are haunting. The meaning is opaque, but then you realize that's partly the point, because what does the frenetic passion and energy of an artist's short life come to signify anyway?