ORLANDO — Empty Spaces Theatre Co(llaboration) and DiDonna Productions have outdone themselves with their latest work “Violin(ce),” a movement exploration with deep laminations of emotion conveyed by a battle-hardened cast.
“If someone gets hurt and it’s part of the choreography it’s my fault,” said fight director and co-director Bill Warriner. “I have ingrained in them how important it is, even if you change from one grip to another grip in the wrong place someone can be seriously hurt.” Warriner runs a tight ship when it comes to safety, and his 22 years of experience in fight direction are put to full use making this cast perform to such a high standard.
Action-packed scenes of sword swinging combat and fisticuff brawls are brilliantly choreographed and masterfully executed, but this only makes up some of the total package that “Violin(ce)” delivers. Throughout this production are also several moments of emotional distressing dialog, elegant dancing, and outright hilarity.
“A Little Slap of the Stick” is a scene near the beginning of this production that provides a great example of the lighter side of “Voilin(ce).” Co-director and actor John DiDonna and fellow cast member Gina Makarova put on a playfully routine reminiscent of the slapstick physical comedy from 1920s silent films. Another light-hearted moment comes during “Le duel pire dans l’histoire” where two reluctant and inexperienced sword fencers played by Miles Berman and Corey Volence are compelled to fight each other.
Spoken word dialog has a unique style for “Violin(ce)” that is designed to connect emotionally with the audience. Real life stories of childhood drama and disturbing confrontations are all submitted by members of the cast to DiDonna who then compiles them into alternating conversations that are performed by other cast members. To protect everyone from being so open about personal details in their life, no one performs their own story and no one knows who submitted what. From abusive family members, violent encounters with strangers, and even self-injury, theses accounts are interlaced to build on the theme that violence in our lives has a lasting affect on everyone involved.
All the dancers of Empty Spaces also beautifully performed fine dance movements to create transitional segments of this production. A solemn solo dance scene magnificently performed by McClain Timmermen showcase not only fine movement and coiling contortionism, but was also accompanied by a video projection depicting the tragic suicide of a young girl falling to her death filmed in a dreamlike surrealist style.
One truly remarkable dance performance from “Violin(ce)” is simple called “The Teacher.” It portrays the story of an instructor helping her student in ways that seem to be abusive. It looks at the concept that any contact by a teacher with a student no matter how light is negative looked upon today, despite the intentions being good and if done correctly can serve as a great means of instruction. The wise and stoic teacher helps to mold the undisciplined pupil who inevitably gains a world of knowledge from this hard-nosed experience.
“It really is a stereotype and it’s a fear that teachers these days live in,” said choreographer Mila Makarova. “Every little thing, you have to be so careful now because people will twist it and say ‘oh you’re being mean’ or ‘no, you’re hurting her.’” Utilizing her 34 years of dance choreography experience, Makarova does a wonderful job as an instructor in “Violin(ce)” and in real life as lead choreographer for Empty Spaces Theatre.
Like the name suggests, combat in several diverse styles is the main focus for “Violin(ce).” During this performance the audience will see sparks fly of giant Scottish claymore swords, femme fatales attack with dual wielding daggers, and a scene of chaotic gladiatorial combat that creates a mass of confusion and death.
“Everyone who sees this production has no idea what they’re walking into, all they know is violence,” said Miles Berman who is performing in his first production with Empty Spaces. “And I think a lot of people are going to walk away from this and go ‘wow, they were really on their game with this one.’”
The remaining performances for “Violin(ce)” at the Orlando Shakespeare Center in Orlando will run every evening at 7:30 p.m. until Monday, July 22, with additional twilight shows on Saturday and Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. Advanced reservations can be called in at 407.328.9005 and credit card pre-orders can also be made by visiting www.redchairprojects.com
By James Tutten
(All photos by James Tutten)