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Chameleon

The Apothecary

1013 7th Street NW

Remaining Performances:

Friday, July 23 at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, July 24 at 3:45 p.m. Sunday, July 25 at 2:15 p.m.

They Say: “Chameleon is a multi-disciplinary presentation about global citizens who have been exposed to several cultures in their developmental years.  Exploring the notions of home, cultural identity and relationships through film, spoken word, theater, photography and dance.”

Ann’s Take: I’m going to start off by saying that I have never seen a piece that specifically explores the identity of Third Culture Kids, a term that describes someone who has spent significant time in more than one culture as a child, thus integrating elements of those experiences into a third culture. (Note the 26-word definition.)  I didn’t even know the category existed.  Feminist, transgender, gay/feminist, biracial, anti-feminist, and ethno-trans-feminist-queer-centric experiences all abound in the “identity performance” world.  So for the reason of fresh subject matter alone, I give kudos to Chameleon.  That director Alaine Handa uses a full arsenal of disciplines to explore this topic – film interviews interspersed throughout live dance performance set to text and music – is even better.

The highlights here are the film clips documenting Third Culture Kids’ thoughts on the definition of home, their connectivity with the people they’ve met and moved away from, and even an interviewee’s preferred meal on her deathbed.  Not sure how the last is particular to Third Culture, yet illuminating nonetheless.  Handa presents some thought-provoking anecdotes on what it means to grow up with many homes or no real home at all.

But, what may be an interesting subject using a lovely array of artistic genres doesn’t quite make the leap past creative sociology project to fully-developed, artistic work.  The overall execution is competent, and at times the dancers’ technical performance is impeccable, yet the piece is missing a big, thematic rubber band to hold it together in an aesthetically satisfying bundle.  The choreography, in particular, seems a bit superfluous, iterating the movements seen in your standard technique class and lacking insightful connection to the other components of the piece.   I leave open, however, the possibility that Chameleon will become more cohesive in the rest of its run: The program notes upcoming performances will include four additional sections not shown during the first weekend.

See it if: You’re thinking of taking the Foreign Service exam. (By my estimate, that should be about a third of DC’s twenty-somethings.)

Skip it if: You’re bitter there is no academic term to describe the cross-cultural identity you have formed after living in both Alexandria and Arlington.