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Merging modes: ModaCoLab at Radius

The success of any artistic collaboration or multimedia fusion depends on two factors: what the participating artists get out of the experience, and whether the finished work translates aesthetically to a third-party viewer. When the Modern Dancers’ Co-Laboratory formed, a little over a year ago, the idea was to create a forum for the open exchange of ideas, aesthetics, and performance opportunities among the city’s professional modern dancers. Their latest project extends the collaborative model a step further, enlisting visual artists to participate in the creation of “Merging Modes,” an official CAM performance that explores the visual and physical acts of the artistic process.

The four works on Friday’s program are the end product of individual collaborations. Each choreographer worked with a visual artist, some using an existing or specifically created object as a prop or thematic device, other times mimicking or taking as inspiration the gestures or working processes of their object-making colleagues.

Kristina Kuest Mistry’s performance, “River Bed,” is inspired by local artist Missi Smith’s “feet paintings,” in which the artist works on a paper grid attached to the floor using paint, charcoal, and other media that are manipulated in dance-like gestures, themselves evolving from Smith’s lifelong interest in dance and movement. Christy Walsh’s explicit use of motion, tension and momentum will be featured in “Wheel,” in which dancers move in, around, and through a large wheel created by sculptor Jennie Powers.

Artist Suzanne Paquette, known for meticulous, organic installations that read as indoor earthworks, created a group of sod-like blocks that form the backbone of three works grouped loosely together. Amber Ortega-Perez’s “Crossing Canaan,” Shonna Walden Cooper’s “Earthbound Determination,” and Laura Vriend’s “Prairie Sweet” manipulate the blocks in various configurations, each dancer creating the physical environment for the next.

The most elaborate and unconventional work is “SPILL!,” a video work created by dance-savvy video artist Michael Bowyer, dancer Jayne King, and painter Diane Mazur. Mazur’s bold, physical, and downright messy painting style and technique inspired the broad gestures of King’s choreography, including the motion of the paint itself. The finished work includes footage of both Mazur and King, edited (or choreographed) by Bowyer to the improvisational jazz of Bill Colangelo, with whom King has worked in the past.

The underlying process seems to have been fruitful for the artists. The success of the translation is found in the performance, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 21, at Radius, 106 Auditorium Circle. Free. 212-6600 or [email protected] for more information.

- Diana Roberts

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