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Originally published by Houston Press 2006-10-26

By Lee Williams

Night & Day

SATURDAY 10/28

Altar-ation

Michele Brangwen has a unique take on Day of the Dead  

Day of the Dead celebrations are so much classier than Halloween parties – which usually involve slutty French maids and trays full of Jell-O shots. The Mexican holiday honoring departed loved ones, on the other hand, involves pageantry, remembrance and altars crafted with feeling and imagination.

Confusion of Angels, a 25-minute performance piece by the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble, takes its inspiration from Day of the Dead. The show combines music, installation art, dance and film. A set design by local artist Sandra Tapia includes several medium-sized altars. With musicians at the altars, the dance and video projection take place in the middle to create a “living altar,” Brangwen says.

She says Confusion deals with “the mounting casualties in the Middle East” but is not a political piece. “It is meant to honor the sacredness of life,” she says. The final video in the performance, filmed at Rothko Chapel, is one of her favorite parts. It shows “floating prayer candles” in the chapel’s reflecting pool and celestial music by Thomas Helton. Brangwen imagines the candles as floating messages from angels asking the living to explain the state of the world. “If I were an angel, I’d be pretty confused about what’s going on in the world right now,” she says. Confusion of Angels shows today at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Barnevelder Theater, 2201 Preston. For information, call 713 533-9515 or visit www.brangwendance.org. Free. -- Lee Williams