Hanako Hoshimi-Caines, Elisa Harkins and Zoë Poluch in Radio III. Photo by Kinga Michalska

Indigenous electronic music meets playful post-postmodern dance

We checked out Radio III, an upcoming interdisciplinary performance at the MAI.

I had the privilege this week of seeing a glimpse of the rehearsal for Radio III, an upcoming interdisciplinary dance performance at the MAI performed by Elisa Harkins, Zoë Poluch and Hanako Hoshimi-Caines.

Harkins, who hails from Oklahoma, is Cherokee Muscogee, and Hoshimi-Caines and Poluch are both Canadian dance artists, of whom Poluch is presently based in Stockholm. The nature of their identities is part of this show, part of their coming together to address post and neo-colonial selfhood through movement and song, part of the show’s playful investigation of power and where it lies.

The fact of their living in different cities while creating this project over the past year has clearly shaped their process. Now that they’re all together in preparation for the opening, the three performers seem to share an impish rapport, a joy at finally being in the same room.

Harkins is an electronic musician and performance artist first, but she has a background in dance that shows in how she holds herself. Even in the fluorescently lit studio, singing the refrain “Die, don’t die,” she is a serene and somehow subversively mirthful presence.

It’s an interesting project in terms of the nature of its collaboration. Wampum was a pre-existing work by Harkins, an “Indigenous electronic music performance,” and yet Wampum has been diffused throughout Radio III, the new work. Likewise, the newer work has worked its way into Wampum. The how of coming together is clearly on the lips of all three artists, both in terms of notions of identity and the process of artistic collaboration more broadly.

The references in Radio III, intellectually and aesthetically, come from a wide array of sources. Hoshimi-Caines and Poluch will at one point be wearing cowboy hats purchased for them in Oklahoma by Harkins. Meanwhile the piece involves a phrase of movement whose genesis comes from our cultural associations with the number three (including, but by no means limited to, psychoanalysis, TLC dance moves and the Holy Trinity).

If darkness is the pretext for all investigations of post-colonial life, then this may prove to be a profoundly light and peculiar iteration of that train of thought. Hoshimi-Caines spoke of how David Lynch was a recurrent cultural signpost while the three artists worked on Radio III, in particular when they discussed the mixing of worlds and the travelling between them.

The excerpts Harkins, Poluch and Hoshimi-Caines performed in-studio gave indication of multiple readings of this show for different kinds of audience members. There are cerebral subtexts to many of the movements that will read as such to people familiar with contemporary dance, but as Hoshimi-Caines noted, this show is about “mixing popular dance with elitist trained dance” and there is a great deal that is unabashedly fun about what I saw. Something as simple as adding a literal tongue-in-cheek to a “neutral” walk becomes on the one hand an in-joke about postmodern dance, and on the other just a goofily fulfilling thing to witness. ■

Radio III runs from June 3–5 at the MAI (3680 Jeanne-Mance), 9 p.m., $15–$25, free for an accompanying person for spectators with a disability