BNC artistic director Garrett Ammon approached Paper Bird about collaborating after he fell in love with the band's music; Carry On features an entirely new lineup of songs from the throwback folk band, with the lovely BNC dancers and a large screen upon which images were projected telling the rest of the story. It's an ambitious multimedia event, but both groups pulled their parts off admirably, and the performance as a whole is bound to be one of the most beautiful, heartfelt things I'll see all year.
Carry On tells an everlasting story of finding love, losing it and carrying on to find it again another day. The two central dancers (Julie King and Sean Watson) move through the piece like a dream, with images like moving trains, a stark tree on the horizon (later, we see the tree covered in leaves and basking in the sunlight) and King and Watson themselves projected onto the back of the stage -- those images are some of the most haunting, as one, then the other dancer fades slowly out of sight. The costumes are simple, hearkening back to a time when women wore dresses and men wore vests and bow-ties, the basic silhouettes and fabrics flowing as the acrobatic BNC dancers float across the stage.
For its part, Paper Bird holds its presence in the corner of the stage; nine band members playing an assortment of instruments, from the banjo, guitar and drum to trombone, trumpet, clarinet and harmonica. At one point, a thumb piano and typewriter provide the main instrumentation, and the vocal harmonizing by Sarah Anderson, Esme Patterson Collins and Genevieve Patterson is gorgeous and smooth. There was a solid line after the performance to pre-order copies of the live recording.
With such new songs as "Peace of Mind," "Dear Friend," "By the Wind Sailor" (accompanied by a fantastic evocation by the dancers of a ship crossing a rolling sea -- you'd have to see it to believe it), "Witch of the Waves" and "Don't You Run," Paper Bird clearly brought its usual high standards to writing this music, and the BNC dancers uphold that standard through their movement. The overall effect is charming, whimsical, nostalgic and heartbreaking at times, evoking a simpler time and rollicking connections between friends and lovers.
Carry On continues next weekend at the Performing Arts Complex at PCS, 1001 West 84th Avenue; show times are February 11 and 12 at 8 p.m. and February 13 -- a benefit for SAME Cafe -- at 2 p.m.; tickets start at $15 for children, students and seniors, and run up to $44 for regular prime tickets. Purchase yours at www.bncdance.com.