The Corbian Visual Arts and Dance recently presented one of the most imaginative shows I've ever seen in this town. Darwin the Dinosaur has toured internationally, but the run at the Contemporary Arts Center was its first appearance in New Orleans. Darwin can be taken anywhere because it has no dialogue: It's all dance, mime, music and captivating visuals. It's almost a puppet show with the puppeteers (dressed in black on a black stage) inhabiting large-as-life puppets.
The piece begins with a phantasmagoric prehistory with a pair of pterodactyls. They, like all the creatures, are animated skeletons made of electroluminescent wire. A magical scientist creates a dinosaur — the eponymous Darwin, who toys with the idea of devouring his creator when he realizes he has teeth. So the scientist creates a heart for Darwin, and the beast becomes a gentle pet.
Darwin wanders off to explore the world and much of the story follows his often comic and entertaining adventures, like a dance with an ostrich who likes to get down and boogie. But evil lurks in the form of a fierce tyrannosaurus.
There is a special sensibility at work in the piece. At one point, the tyrannosaurus crosses the stage growling and to our surprise (and the delight of kids in the audience) he drops blue poop as he goes. After he exits, four blue droppings transform into flowers which come to life and dance.
Another haunting effect is a glowing blue line on the floor. A turtle tries to convince Darwin to cross the line, but he's afraid. The line is the shore of a body of water. Darwin jumps in and the line zooms up over his head, leaving him swimming with glowing fish.
The scientist is distraught over his runaway dinosaur and sets out to find him. The tyrannosaurus tries to eat the man for dinner, but Darwin appears and the two dinosaurs engage in a duel — with light swords, no less.
Ian Carney and Corbin Popp created, choreographed and directed the piece (with additional direction by Coy Middlebrook). The cast included Carney, Eleanor Carney, Stephen Charles Nicholson, Jonathon Whalen and Michael Quintana. The group is preparing a production of The Ugly Duckling. Don't miss it. — Dalt Wonk