Danielle Georgiou could be persuaded to join a cult. There is something very appealing to the director of the theater/dance mashup Danielle Georgiou Dance Group about choosing your own truth. There’s something even more intriguing, almost beautiful, about cultish repetitive movement and actions. It’s very closely related to the animalistic behaviors she and her partner Justin Locklear have been observing and studying for the past year.
Not many couples research bees and then write a performance piece about it, but that’s exactly what Georgiou and Locklear have been up to. Their latest project, War Flower, is an examination of ritual, hive behavior and rhythms. The pair has collaborated many times before, each time looking at different aspects of human behavior, including sexuality, which they tackled in Nice (a show about women) and The Show About Men (a show about men). Those productions got Georgiou and Locklear thinking about bigger things, like human systems and how they function.
“We kept running into similar themes when we explored these other ideas — death, fear, time, ritual,” Georgiou says. It led to more questions about how humans relate to one another.
A war flower is someone who goes into battle and comes out unharmed. Locklear says human beings are the perfect example of this.
“We keep surviving and we really shouldn’t. The war flower on earth is life; we don’t know how it keeps happening,” Locklear muses. “Time isn’t scary; it’s the only thing we can’t defeat.”
By exploring this theme of just how life carries on, they discovered the very real way rituals protect and preserve humans. Locklear uses the example of the winter solstice. A familiar position of the moon each year leads to celebration of that memory. It’s a way of understanding repetitive actions in nature and eventually it becomes something of our own creation.
Ritual is also crucial to survival, Georgiou explains. For animals there is safety in ritual, but for humans those rituals eventually evolve into facade. A smile that was meant to alert another human that you were not going to harm them is now devoid of meaning.
As part of her research, Georgiou began studying the behavior of bees.
“Bees are the most democratic creatures we see in nature,” she explains. The movement bees follow, swarming, is a term used in dance for following a leader. This felt even more natural to her.
“Bees dance to vote, to make decisions about where to go,” she says.
As they delved further into animal behavior, they began drawing more connections to human traits. Smiles became akin to the way some animals bare their teeth or communicate safety with each other. The language of the performers became more animalistic too, devolving into guttural sounds.
In this way, War Flower looks at the way we communicate, and how much of human interaction has been stripped of meaning. With advances in technology, deep, face-to-face interactions have become more rare. Allusions to animal systems that communicate solely through movement are meant to suggest an authenticity we’ve lost as humans.
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One way Locklear and Georgiou try to make communication more impactful in War Flower is by breaking down words so that they have more meaning. “There are times when silence is the loudest part of the show,” Locklear says.
War Flower is accompanied by music inspired by the feeling of love, performed by sound designer Donovan Jones. Both Georgiou and Locklear describe the music as a way of putting the body into a sort of trance.
“We wanted to create a very specific environment that kind of alters you,” Georgiou says. “It’s something you can only experience by seeing it, participating in it. You can’t recreate it unless you come back.”
War Flower runs through Jan. 28 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Tickets are $15 at dallasculture.org.