BY AARON STELLA There are some works of art, so exquisite and unique, that they warrant a review fitted to their specific abstraction. Such was the case April 30th of my viewing of Philadanco’s 39th annual round of spring performances, “Movers and Shakers”, which consisted of three world premieres and one company premiere performance. And so, I give you something a little different:
Red Envelope (World Premiere)
The faded beige curtains ascended and the house lights dimmed to total blackness. I glanced at my program before all sources of light were extinguished, catching that the first dance was entitled Red Envelope, and that it explores the themes of Faust, Death and the Afterlife. The dimly lit stage revealed a man clothed in formal black-and-white ballroom wear and woman in a shimmering velvet evening gown. The plunks of a music box began to reel disjointedly. Though irresolute at first, as if not entirely trusting of each other, the duo’s movements quickly ramped up into successive pirouettes and guided lifts, all the while skirting around the nightstand upon which laid a red envelope for which the duo shared an evident apprehension. Then silhouettes of tall windows became the backsplash of the stage, as two women, one in a fuchsia dress and the other in dark purple, replaced the courtly pair. They flitted and floated about with ingenuousness, at times, entering into an ebullient-yet-contained pas de deux. Curiosity struck when the woman in fuchsia picked up the red envelope. Her face slowly grew crestfallen, and then she wept. Upon noticing her dolefulness, the other rushed to comfort her but then read the red envelope. The pair entered back into their twirling exchanges with newfound weight. The stage filled with a sky-blue hue as the women exited — taking the envelope with them — as a man and woman dressed in brown flesh suits came onto the stage. Climbing over each other with flexed hands and feet, genesis and joy was the mood of their entwinings. The dance concluded with the three duos frantically circling the red envelope, then freezing in a hesitant but wanting reach. The curtains descended.
Those Who See Light (World Premiere)
After a brief pause, a new dance, Those Who See Light, commenced. Forest-techno accompanied by trembling bongos burgeoned into audibility as six women dressed in varying green- and brown-striped shirts and loose-legged pants came gliding onto the stage. I anticipated fluidity, but instead the dance was energetic and staccato in pace. Throughout the performance, the back lighting varied between murky earth tones, each with a steely gloss, and judging from the tribal-esque movements of the dancers, the survivalist life of city-dwellers seemed to pervade the whole. Toward the end of the dance, five of the six dancers threw themselves to the ground and laid prone while the remaining one leapt and wildly spun about, eventually resurrecting her fallen ilk to accept their imperiled fate as dynamists. The curtains descended.
Rapture (Company Premiere)
Intermission passed. The house lights faded and the curtains rose for the exhibition of Rapture. Eight lithe forms bound onto stage and immediately began throwing each other about in a blend of ballet, jazz and modern dance. All the while the stage resounded with trilling saxophones and warm-toned clarinets. Every executed movement had a placid grace that verged on sustained euphoria. However, taken as a whole, the dance lacked the pointed charge that the previous two had. Here, unfortunately, vanity was chosen over efficacy. Nevertheless, once all eight dancers were in full momentum, the wholesale display successfully evoked a lasting thrill, with the dancers finishing in a warm embrace. The curtains descended.
Be Ye Not (World Premiere)
Again I glanced down at my program. The last dance was Be Ye Not. The Bible quote below the title of the dance instructed: “We often believe that conformity leads us to acceptance…Be ye not conformed to this world, but be transformed. (Romans 8:12)” The stage spotlighted a woman in a long red velvet dress. She seemed to be looking for something. As her search continued, joggers — with the men in jeans and tight tees, and the women in tight knee-high spandex and loose fitting shirts — came sporadically trotting onto stage. In the midst of the mounting traffic, the lady in red perambulated, often gliding her hands over the ground as she was flung around by passing joggers. Eventually, a female jogger confronted her. She proceeded to distract the lady in red from her quest with slinky paces and fingers pointing about, as if mapping out the schematics to something dubious. The two leave the stage. Then the joggers reentered. The wander-some quality of their synced choreography suggested that they too as a group were looking for something. Something that will most likely not be found. The lady in red re-enters — this time in a jogger’s outfit — followed by her erstwhile seductress. Although attempting to follow the group, the newly clad lady in red balked intermittently, which incurred retaliation from her treacherous opposer. Eventually their conflict brought them to opposite sides of the stage, where in the center laid a wall made of the joggers lying prone with their hands bound behind their backs. The two glared at each other across the expanse, and then entered into a climactic battle, executing their volleys of movement from their respective sides. It was unclear who was the victor in the end. The curtains descended.