Nichole Canuso and Michael Kiley. Photo by Matt Saunders.
BOTTOM LINE: As the Eyes of the Seahorse is a collaboration of live music and modern dance. The Philadelphia husband-wife team brings to New York a "happening" of performance that features both the original music of the band The Mural and The Mint and the original choreography of Nichole Canuso Dance Company.
Michael Kiley and Nichole Canuso have a beautiful marriage; it is one of music, dance, collaboration, respect and love. They bring to the stage a piece of themselves and their actual marriage, in the form of a vulnerably transparent collection of thirteen song vignettes that features both dancers and musicians trading roles throughout.
The current music venue standard is a wiley come-if-you-will dank business that lends itself to dark bars with shoddy sound systems. As the Eyes of the Seahorse aims to shatter that model with a fresh and beautiful presentation of original music, placing the band's set list in a theatre with pictures conceptualized with a choreographer interested in more than the boobaliscious Britney Spears money-making tour. This is different. It is subtle, it is alive and breathing, and it captures the mood and intention of lyric and chord progression with such simple clarity, joy and care that the audience experiences a happening rather than a play. It is almost like watching a music video of The Mural and The Mint's work. I can liken it to a Michel Gondry movie or watching an art installation through an amber-colored glass.Along with the normal theatrical lighting, designer Mark O'Maley has set the stage with over 60 mason jars hanging from the ceiling with candles burning low at the base of each jar. The effect is heartwarming and mellowing, and it matches the intended transparency of every song. O'Maley accentuates the mason jar glow with a warm wash of amber, which provides the same simple clarity, joy, and care Kiley and Canuso invite the piece to be.
You should know to not expect overt story and dialogue. Although Kiley addresses the audience twice during the show, the artists let the piece stand for itself. And it is quite the masterful happening of beauty they hoped to achieve. I, personally, was moved many times, but especially in Kiley and Canuso's personal duet to the title song. There is just a ukelele, Kiley's singing, and Canuso's solo dance scapes. And it's brilliant.
As the Eyes of the Seahorse features dancers Nichole Canuso, Niki Cousineau, Meg Foley, John Luna, Shannon Murphy and Christina Zani, and musicians Corey Duncan, Eliza Jones, Michael Kiley, Jebney Lewis and Joshua Ramey. Every member of this performance deserves high accolades and when you come, you'll see why.
(As the Eyes of the Seahorse plays at HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Avenue one block south of Spring Street, through December 11th, 2010. Remaining performances are Saturday, December 11th at 7pm & 11pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at www.here.org or by calling 212-352-3101.)