Dancers become instruments in Emmy-tested String Theory’s avant-garde “Remembering Water”

By Michael Aushenker

Dancers meld sound and vision during avant-garde String Theory performances  Photo by Luke Rothschild

Dancers meld sound and vision during avant-garde String Theory performances
Photo by Luke Rothschild

Holly Rothschild won’t forget August’s 66th annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Governors Ball.

The choreographer helped welcome some 3,800 entertainment industry professionals to the west hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center with an avant-garde instrumental mashup of Dr. Dre’s “California Love” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

The surreal, laser-lit ensemble performance was as much about visuals as sound, with players working a harp shaped to resemble an Arabian moon, others on an enormous curve harp that “looks more like a piano on its side,” she said, and at center a percussionist playing a massive set of horizontal drums.

Such atypical hybrid performances are everyday work for Rothschild, co-founder of the Santa Monica-based multi-media performing arts troupe String Theory.

String Theory now returns to the stage with “Remembering Water,” a newly crafted theatrical collision of sonic landscapes and contemporary dance, on Thursday, May 21, at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica.

Set to all-original music that leans toward rock ’n’ roll while echoing 15th century Renaissance fare, “Remembering Water” divines its liquid inspiration loosely from imagery found in Parke Harrison’s book “The Architect’s Brother.”

“I wanted to work with an idea, a theme,” said Rothschild, recalling how husband Luke Rothschild purchased Harrison’s book for her after she glanced through its “very beautiful and evocative” photographs during a visit to the creepy cool Obsolete gallery when it was located on Main Street in Santa Monica.

Timely for the drought, Rothschild was also attracted to the book’s strong environmental message.

“We started writing music based on the images in the book. The material coming out of it seemed really beautiful to me,” Rothschild said of crafting the show’s electronic sound palette with her film composer husband — who also plays long-string harps, bass and guitar — and multi-instrumentalist Robert Anjarv.

It takes 11 people to perform “Remembering Water,” a show involving “harness harps” (corsets attached to long-string instruments) and dancers who “use the weight of their bodies to create enough tension to generate sound,” she said.

Co-sponsored by the Arts Earth Partnership (helmed by Miles Memorial Playhouse owner Justin Yossi), the performance isn’t quite as esoteric as it sounds, Rothschild said.

“The work is very accessible. Our audience range is vast,” she said. “We’re using dance in a different way than we usually do. The dance style in this production is more visceral, and we’re developing new instruments for the show.”

Founded in 2001 in Chicago with the help of classical cellist Joseph Harvey, String Theory emerged as a way to break down the barriers that divide fine arts disciplines from one another and audiences.

The following year, the couple moved to Venice, which suits such thinking well.

“In Venice, it’s not the idea of being famous but of plying your craft and doing your work. I feel like I’ve met so many extraordinary people like that,” said Rothschild. “Also, Luke got really into surfing.”

Performances of “Remembering Water” happen at 8 p.m. on May 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30 and at 7 p.m. on May 24 and 31 at the Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. $15 to $20.