Friday, June 17, 2016

14 Preserves Innocence

by Jenni Morin

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, 14 Creator and Director Roberto Prestigiacomo offers a glimmer of joy and a sense of peace in youthful naivety. In its last weekend at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center, AtticRep’s 14 is a beacon of hope for a better future through the post-9/11 generation.

AtticRep's 14 at the Tobin Center. Photo by Siggi Ragnar.
Exploring the life experiences through the eyes of a rising teenager, Prestiagiacomo creates a fantastical world of beauty, light, and freedom. Even with the challenges of childhood – fitting in and finding an identity – the main character, Maia, retains her childlike virtuosity. She finds strength after nearly being blown away, learning to float and fly. Her curiosity is not dampened by an onslaught of social media, visual stimuli, or commercials, which she’s able to mute in the background since her entire life experience has always consisted of these things. As she grapples with making sense of history and iconic figures, such as Santa, in her life, she learns to distinguish and analyze, but never loses her sense of wonder. Maia embodies the simplicity of childhood and 14 captures an age just before the superficialities of teenage angst take over.

A refreshing piece of performance art, 14 showcases the strength of not only its dancers, but of dance as an emotive art form. Just as Prestigiacomo described, the theatre is transformed into a safe place void of tragedy, war, and hate. The show opens with an almost robotic building of the New York skyline with books. The movement choreographed by Mireya Guerra seems to represent the clockwork dependability and structure of the twin towers and world economy prior to the terrorist attack. A toppling of rectangles of light, a virtual set hauntingly designed by Stefano Di Buduo, is the precursor to the world Maia will enter. Corie Altaffer portrays Maia with an unbreakable confidence as she exhibits great control in her dance and aerial pieces and intense emotion in more stylized scenes. Choreographed by Julia Langenberg, aerialists Jenny Been Franckowiak and Elise Thea Sipos were mesmerizing as they twirled and posed in midair, eliciting gasps from the audience as they plummeted to the floor only to be caught by their fabric harnesses. Even though the contemporary dance pieces felt repetitious at times, choreographer Seme Jatib produced a comfort through consistency as well as a sense of identity. From the naked umbrella, which provides no shield from the elements, to the primary metallic Mylar balloons, to the ominous glowing masks, to the onstage slip and slide, each detail echoes the uncertain world where nonchalance is unattainable and fear is inevitable, yet happiness may always be just within grasp. Movers Georgette Lockwood, Mike Maria, Sarah Modisette, Maggie Tonra, and Gabriela Vazquez anchored the production’s tone, set the mood, and brought life to a silent, yet deafening, world.

At the intersection of dance and media, 14 is the innocence and glee seemingly long forgotten, but alive and well within the theater walls. AtticRep gives testament to the power of art and live performance to transport audiences to another place and time, rejuvenate the soul, and remind of the good and beautiful in the world.

AtticRep’s 14 plays at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center through June 19, 2016 with final performances on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit

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