Arts and Entertainment

Lelavision: theater with a bang

Ela Lamblin and Leah Mann meld sculpture, music and dance to create performances. - Courtesy photo
Ela Lamblin and Leah Mann meld sculpture, music and dance to create performances.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Lelavision Physical Music, an innovative performance duo that creates and debuts much of its groundbreaking work on the Island, is preparing to present an ambitious new work that features high-minded science and low-flying projectiles.

“Musico Ballistica” — billed as a “science/art collaboration” — will have its premiere performances this weekend at Lelavision’s barn studio, located deep in the woods of upper Burton.

The performance will combine the muscular choreography of Leah Mann, the inventive DaVinci-esque musical sculptures of Ela Lamblin and the erudite and complex observations of renowned scientist Steven Vogel.

Vogel, who teaches at Duke University and is considered one of the co-founders of the field of biomechanics, recently authored a paper specifically for Lelavision on the physics of ballistics.

Vogel’s dense paper covered such diverse topics as spore-shooting, dung-inhabiting mold, rock-throwing simians and the ultimate damage-inflicting behavior of that most curious of species: the human.

Lamblin and Mann, a husband-and-wife team, have spent the past several months working to interpret and translate Vogel’s concepts into their signature combination of aerial and modern dance, music, theater and large, interactive kinetic sculpture.

“Musico Ballistica” will also feature Vogel as a ghostly narrator; a video of the scientist delivering his paper will be threaded throughout the work.

The piece — recommended for all ages — will also include participatory elements for the audience. Mann said those who attend can “expect messy musical fun.”

Lamblin and Mann founded Lelavision in 1996. The couple has lived on the Island for the past five years, garnering international attention for their art while building a house, a studio and a body of work that has received numerous awards and grants.

The couple talked about their work in their light-filled home while their 1-year-old daughter, Kairos, played on the floor. Their house, built and designed from scratch by Lamblin, seems like a reflection of their creative spirit and energy — open, spacious and gracefully adorned with whimsical, handmade objects.

Lamblin describes Lelavision as a hybrid of sculpture, music and dance theater and sums up the group’s vision as “play to the third power — playing with sound plus playing on sculpture plus playing through space.”

In their most recent work, Lamblin said, the duo has added science to the mix.

“Musico Ballistica” is a part of the “Propagation Project” — a series of collaborations between Lelavision and eight scientists from across the United States.

The series was the brainchild of scientific illustrator Nancy Lowe, who conceived the project as a way to make science more accessible to the general public.

“The Propagation Project” is being produced under the umbrella of Emory’s College of Science and Society and has received generous funding from numerous sources, including the National Science Foundation.

Last year Lelavision premiered, also at their Vashon studio, the first of these science art collaborations with reproductive biologist Anna Edlund of Spelman College. The resulting piece — which delved into the subject of pollination — is now being toured to diverse audiences around the country.

Lamblin said the project has been “an amazing education” and a challenge.

“Scientists aren’t the greatest storytellers,” he explained. “They speak a different language. Our challenge is to mix facts with analogies and the linear with the non-linear.”

Lamblin said Lelevision’s goal was to create performances that were intellectual enough to appeal to people who attended scientific conferences and at the same time to make the material accessible and interesting enough for a child to enjoy.

To do this, he said, he and Mann have relied on comedy, visual beauty and music.

“That appeals to everyone,” he said. “We want to bring awe and get people excited about the natural world.”

‘Musico Ballistica’

Lelavision will present “Musico Ballistica” at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 28, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 29.

Admission is $15 general and $10 students and seniors, payable by cash or check. Reservations are required, and directions to Lelavision’s studio will be given upon reservation. To reserve, e-mail lela@lelavision.com or call 463-9548 no later than March 27. Seating is limited.

Saturday’s show will culminate in an open dialogue and panel discussion with scientists and artists who are collaborating on Lelavision projects.

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