Review: A HAIR CAN SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE, Blipswitch Dance to April 2, 2023
by David Glen Robinson

Blipswitch's large-scale performance A Hair Can Split the Difference exceeds anything similar by other professional dance companies in the region. That formidable production plays at the Long Time outdoor venue off FM969 in eastern Travis County. Blipswitch gave a smooth, skilled performance lacking glitches and rain, which had been forecast. Unlike other companies with growing pains when they increase in scale, Blipswitch had no miscues, errant lighting, or fractious sound systems.


(photo by Maggie M. Bailey)



The performance began in the built center of the venue, in other guise a commercial baseball park with several acres of open, wild nature. Six or seven women quietly assembled behind a canopy. One held a violin and started to play. The women were topless, but from the waist down they wore flowing slacks and dresses, some with trains. All white fabrics. They faced away from the audience and wouldn’t look at them, as though they had something to hide. They walked away toward towering trees, the audience following and violinist K. C. Jones playing. The group—thirteen in all—walked past seating rows with uniform facing toward the performing field, and the audience dropped off to seat themselves. The group continued down an immensely long slope toward a solid backdrop of fifty-foot trees (riparian growth along a creek just off the Long Time property). Halfway there, the group joined the rest of the cast distributed randomly on the grass of the outdoor setting, identically attired, topless with waist-down white garments, and facing away from the audience, again as though they had something to hide. How puzzling. Then they performed an introductory section of popcorn movements, arm movements mostly, performers here and there firing their arms and torsos, moving off their marks very little, but always facing upstage. The group movement resolved, and the cast wriggled into more modest costumes prepositioned nearby.


A meta comment here is imperative. The audience participation and group walk were brilliant tactics to define the playing space, which was very wide open, astronomically deep, and bounded far upstage by huge, vibrant green trees. A cast of thirteen certainly was required to command that space. The creation of dance in unusual outdoor places seems to be an esthetic rising organically from the creative heart of Blipswitch. The Long Time venue just possibly exceeds the vast beauty of Blipswitch’s Offbeat X group show on the grounds of the Curtain Theater in far west Austin. There, dance proceeded from the theatre itself and a toy fairy village. Guest performances scattered themselves hither and yon in the grove of Ent-like walnut trees meditating in photosynthetic serenity beside the waters of Lake Austin. Blipswitch does nature very well.


(photo by Maggie M. Bailey)

The core dance in this performancewas in several sections, most but not all of them accompanied by live music, a three-piece ensemble led by singer and violinist K. C. Jones, with Zack Wiggs on pedal steel guitar and Josh Kavanaugh on stand-up bass. Jones sang her original songs, at least one in Cajun French about riding a horse, le cheval, a deep clue to the origins of the performance. Movement, however, was not in the least horselike.


 In text notes, “Blipswitch situates itself and the audience within the realm of feminine agency.” And that realm on stage became a mosaic of contemporary movement technique, each section surprisingly choreographed with breakout groups and solos in enriching combinations. There was one through-phrase with the arms that featured a gesture of hitting oneself in the head. That was rather distinctive and easily followed. One drawback was the lengthy progression of andante, or walking, pace, especially in the first half of the show. Pacing is more satisfying when it is varied. In other companies, the over-use of walking and slow paces looks like the performers are hesitant, uncertain, or under-rehearsed. This could not be the case with this ensemble of thirteen of probably the best mid-career fine-arts dancers in Austin.


Hailley Lauren, Erica Saucedo, Taryn Lavery (photos by Maggie M. Bailey)


The cast erased any uncertainty eventually with surprising sequences and gestural phrases, as when a dancer started a curving line of pirouettes entraining a line of nearby dancers. The line of movers curved themselves around the edges of a central group, thus framing and bringing focus to the work in the center. Such movement is light and fast, and it happened a couple of times, each time evocative of some imaginary fairy sequence out of a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It certainly relieved any somnambulant slowness. 


(photo by Frank Curry)The cast created and shared highlights in the performance. At one point, the group crowded against Kelsey Oliver and lifted her about four feet off the ground while she made three mystic signs around the front and sides of her face. Lisa Del Rosario performed a downstage solo that made use of floor work (grass work?) to gain expressiveness. Hailley Lauren fired off her true vertical battement more than once, revealing her strong ballet background. These highlights came after she took a little me-time early in the performance to adjust and re-tie her bushy-bushy coiffure in full view of the audience.


In a longish passage of quirky humor, Emily Rushing moved downstage very close to the audience and stretched out and relaxed on the grass, looking around, seeing if it was about to rain, just chillin’. This went on for about five minutes while behind her almost to the upstage trees the large group did hard, serious work. The use of all the immense space and contrasts in energy levels were innovative and textural by their contrast. The individual and group highlights from this ensemble of expert dancers are too many to recount, but all are to savor. The performers are: Errin Delperdang, Lisa del Rosario, Lisa Kobdish, Hailley Lauren, Taryn Lavery, Sarah Navarrete, Rachel Nayer, Kelsey Oliver, Aidan Rodgers, Emily Rushing, Erica Saucedo, Emily Tolson and Lucy Wilson.


Alex Miller (photo by Sara Hannie), K.C. Jones (photo by freelancecajun)


In a brief interview after the show, co-director/co-producer Alex Miller explained the origins of A Hair Can Split the Difference. “It was originally my master’s thesis research project for Hollins University in Virginia,” she explained. She had done research on physiotherapist Linda Kohanova, a figure in husbandry who pioneered forms of behavioral counseling for horses. That was the germ of the dance. Quoting from the website: “Through mythological and historical representations of the horse and the feminine, this work indulges in the analogy of these two species moving through the world, persevering with an awareness deeply rooted in feeling.” And then the studio abstraction of the material took hold to make it a dance, and the outcome was sublime. The entwining of horses with human beings, specifically women, suffering stressors both in common and variant, created the rich material of A Hair Can Split the Difference. Hence also the songs by K. C. Jones, who has been a friend of Alex Miller since before college. Jones is a researcher in language and all things Acadiana. She's also a headliner in three bands in her hometown of Lafayette, La. She dropped a bombshell by revealing that she and Alex Miller are both full Cajun and can trace their lineages back through Nova Scotia to France. Lineality wins.



A Hair Can Split the Difference is around only for one weekend, until April 2nd, 2023. Follow Blipswitch on their website and get to know this rising star of dance.


A Hair Can Split The Difference
by Blipswitch, Josh Kavanaugh

March 29 - April 02, 2023
The Long Time
5707 Dunlap Rd N
Austin, TX, 78725

March 29 - April 2, 2023 at 7 p.m.

The Long Time, 5705 Dunlap Road, N. Austin, Texas

Tickets available via Blipswitch -- click HERE