Third Coast Review: Third Coast Percussion Adds Transcendent Movement Art to Metamorphosis

Published on May 4, 2023 by Kathy D. Hey       |      Share this post!

“How could Third Coast Percussion top their gorgeous rendering of Metamorphosis by Philip Glass? Stir in some gravity and body structure-defying dance…be sure to catch a collaborative performance with any of the megawatt talents that shared the stage.”

How could Third Coast Percussion top their gorgeous rendering of Metamorphosis by Philip Glass? Stir in some gravity and body structure-defying dance.

What TCP does with percussion is make music out of objects that are not always instruments per se. At their performance of Rituals and Meditations at DePaul, we were treated to a banquet table of toys, doodads, and doohickeys. On Tuesday, three movement artists were added to notch things up at the Harris Theater. The result is called Metamorphosis and it is a delight for the eyes and ears.

Third Coast Percussion is a Chicago-based quartet that is known all over the world. Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore are innovators and collaborators who elevate the art of percussion. They have commissioned pieces from newer artists and widened the diversity of performers and composers of contemporary classical music. It is always great to watch the tremendous joy that they take in making inanimate objects like plates, kazoos, and old-fashioned tin noisemakers into discernible notes. Their superlative skill with traditional percussion instruments is known the world over.

This collaboration of music and movement was created in 2020 and then the pandemic ended the public performances. This collaboration between Movement Art Is (Jon Boogz and Lil Buck), Third Coast Percussion, and artists Trent Jeray and Cameron Murphy, and the surprise addition of Ron Myles, was done remotely and just recently rehearsed in person for the Chicago premiere.

TCP started the evening with Metamorphosis No. 1 by Philip Glass. The fugue-like notes with changing tempos and additions after each phrase are a soothing meditation on change. The audience got a preview of the dances to come when Trent Jeray glided across the stage as if walking on air. The lighting design by Joe Burke was an enhancement of psychedelia. The blues, fuchsias, and greens are beautifully timed and a visual enhancement that draws the audience further in.

Glass’ Amazon River was also performed in this show. The beauty of percussionists playing Glass is the minimalism of the drums and marimbas sounding like steel drums. It is a lovely tropical respite that recalls the many animals, birds, and of course the winding Amazon Basin.

Third Coast Percussion always brings new composers and new talent to the fore. The music of Jlin reflects the unique sounds of electronic music that evolves from the Chicago dance footwork style. Jlin composed a seven-movement work called Perspectives for Third Coast Percussion. All seven movements were performed for Metamorphosis with dance-off style jookin’ from Jeray, Murphy, and Miles.

We were treated to the Chicago premiere of Sunny X by composer Tyondai Braxton. His music has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, Bang on a Can, and others. Braxton’s blend of electronic and meditative acoustic music is performed brilliantly by Third Coast Percussion and the dancers. Braxton’s music has a meditative element that is reflected in the slower and more flowing dance moves.

The movements of the trio have a graceful element and athleticism. Jookin emerged from street dancing combined with several styles in Memphis. Movement Art Is founder Lil Buck has performed in venues all over the world. It is a combination of funk, tap via the Nicholas Brothers, Gangsta Walk, and bucking. It is also very reminiscent of Marcel Marceau’s slow-motion walking against the wind or entering a box. There were no bemused expressions or whimsical costumes, Simple long-sleeved white tee shirts, black pants, and nearly glow-in-the-dark white-trimmed shoes.

Watching the trio in solo performances and in a mini dance-off elicited happy outbursts of encouragement from more familiar (younger) audience members and excited applause from the rest of the audience. It is no surprise that Jeray and Murphy have performed with Cirque du Soleil and for Aerosmith’s Deuces are Wild Las Vegas residency.

Ron Myles is the original performer of Metamorphosis choreographed by Boogz and Lil Buck. He appeared in Footloose (2011) and several national commercials. They bend, stretch, reach into the air, and contort effortlessly. It is an excellent collaboration and smoothly directed by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig.

I highly recommend that you listen to Third Coast Percussion and be sure to catch a collaborative performance with any of the megawatt talents that shared the stage. Boogz, Lil Buck, Ron Myles, Trent Jeray, and Cameron Murphy can be seen on social media platforms, YouTube, and as choreographers or performers in productions all over the world.