Loose Change Dance Collective rehearsing "Promise" for "She Said."
At this #MeToo moment in time, “She Said” hit all the right notes.
A creation of the Loose Change Dance Collective, the evening-length piece presented at Proctors on Friday and Saturday staked out who women are, what their smiles conceal and why this movement is vital to empowering them beyond their domestic domains.
In a conglomeration of films, monologues and short dances, the work, directed by Laurie Zabele Cawley, exposed who “she” really is – a life giver, care giver whose thoughts and needs often go unnoticed. She’s a lover, a mother, a hunter, an artist, a victim of rape, a mourner, a bisexual, and generally, not what her mere exterior reveals.
As a dance critic, I went to be inspired by physical, not political movement. And not all of the dances spoke to me. But it didn’t matter because as a whole the piece resonated – and not just because I am a woman. A man sitting next to me wiped a tear from his eye at the final curtain.
“She Said” got its start through a 21st century community – social media – on which a questionnaire was distributed to women anonymously. The 70 answers made up the thoughts and stories that were told in “She Said.”
It began with a film in which the work's dancers and actors were asked to finish this sentence, “I am ….” It was difficult for some to answer because many women are reluctant to talk about themselves. And dancers talk about themselves even less. But one thing these women had in common was an acknowledgement that being a woman was difficult, but it was also a role they took pride in.
The first dance, “Surrender,” featured Rachel Johnson and Deb Rutledge in a piece that underscored women's constant pressure to align with the needs of others. With their arms reaching to the sky and facing the same way, the duo constantly circled. When they briefly stood still facing in different directions, one would gently tap the other so that she could return to proper formation. To Jennifer Koh’s “Dissolve, Oh My Heart,” played live by violinist Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz, the piece spoke of what women do, regardless of their penchant, to keep peace and their world running smoothly, while hopefully, standing faithfully together.
I preferred “Viral Velocity,” a work for 11, in which the women soared and spun in lines across the stage. My eye went straight to Joan Anderson who is a fleet and beautifully sculpted dancer. It’s unfortunate she only appeared in this one piece as she captivated.
“Promise” had the ensemble, which included women of all ages, wearing gowns and sitting in chairs as if waiting for an offer to dance. To the Disney song, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” it emphasized how women are often defined as physical adornments for men and not as a person who breathes underneath satin and silk.
The evening ended with all of the women on stage with a raised hand in a symbolic pledge and pronouncement of mutual support. In the future, they will be heard.
Choreographer Takehiro Ueyama
Take Dance is known for its storytelling and its intensity that is both forceful and delicate. But at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center on Saturday night, Artistic Director Takehiro “Take” Ueyama showed a more painterly side – one that expressed his curiosity of the mysteries of the world around us.
It flourished in his Landscape series, which included a world premiere of “Landscape 3,” a work that paid tribute to Japanese pop singer Hideki Saijo. But the preceding dances “Landscape 1” and “Landscape 2” demonstrated that Ueyama is drinking in the natural world for inspiration.
The first dance, with Eun-Kyung Chung and Seyong Kim, was a balletic rendering of birds in flight. Set to Bach’s “French Suites,” the two soared and banked through the space, gently resting with each other before taking fight again. It was a beautiful, fluid conversation between the two dancers.
“Landscape 2” was an earthbound affair with Katherine Bittner, John Raffles Durbin and Lauren Kravitz. Inspiring reptilian thoughts, the piece felt heavy, a little dark and not as satisfying. The costume trousers, which featured cut out at the hips, were distracting. It was clear that Ueyama, who designed the costumes, should stick with choreography.
The unveiling of “Landscape 3,” with Brynt Beitman and Kristi Tornga, made up for the wearisome “2.” Set to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” the piece had Beitman throwing himself into the song with both confidence and vulnerability. Tornga, a sturdy tornado of a dancer, backed him up as a sharp shadow of his ego.
Beitman also played a pivotal role in “Wake,” a work from 2016, which opened up the second half of the program. Dancing with Jane Sato, he appeared an angel rousing Sato from a sweet slumber to the enchanting centuries old music that unspooled from tenor Jeffrey Thompson and Ensemble La Reveuse. The compatibility of the music and dance elevated the relationship between human and spirit and thus the impact of this stirring work.
And like "Landscape 1," the dancers showed their sensitivities toward one another. They merged and pulled apart lusciously and seamlessly. The partnership was uplifting.
Finally “Stuart,” to crashing rhythms of Les Tambours du Bronx juxtaposed to Max Richter’s emotive minimalist sound, was both gratifying and confusing. Featuring Kravitz and Tornga, the piece swung from intimacy to grinding, repetitive gestures. At one point, Kravitz let out silent screams while Tornga struggled in the background. But then in an instant, they two were back, seemingly at work, driving forward mindlessly.
“Stuart” was thought-provoking and begging for a second look. Here's to hoping we can get one at Kaatsbaan soon.
Cirque Eloize amazes once again in "Hotel" at Proctors.
Cirque Eloize was back at Proctors on Friday night. And as in previous visits, the Montreal-based ensemble did what it does best – create a psychedelic universe where its inhabitants shattered the audience’s belief in gravity and reality.
On this visit, the ensemble of acrobats, aerialists and jugglers performed their latest creation “Hotel,” a place where a kooky casts of guests checked in with an equally zany staff of bellhops and front desk workers. The collision, created by Eloi Painchaud, was both funny, surprising, and better yet, a testament to working together to build something bigger and better than a single soul could erect.
While inspiring, “Hotel” started off rather slowly. It began with two men greeting each other in the lobby. They engaged in a hug that bloomed into a tangle of arms from which the two struggled to extract. That led to a show of strength, including a series of upside down poses while balancing in one-handed handstands. The core power of Cesar Mispelon with support from Julius Bitterling was incredible, but the show should have started with a more overt introduction to the ensemble as a whole.
That did follow with singer Sabrina Halde who whipped up anticipation for “Hotel” with her opening song, backed up by the dazzling daring of the Cirque Eloize ensemble. It was at this point that the audience was locked in and ready for the magic that unfolded.
Cory Marsh hypnotized with his ride inside of a hoop. How he manipulated its movement with nary a movement was beyond comprehension. Also amazing was Una Bennett’s work with a rope, sliding up and down as the audience held it’s breath. Emma Rogers and Andrei Anissimov made a marvelous team with their fluid and easy give-and-take acrobatics. And Antonin Wicky’s slapstick, as he crawled up onto the peaked of the set to retrieve a suitcase, was classic comedy.
The creative cast, directed by Emmanuel Guillaume, ended by scaling and sliding down poles in a showy display of their adroit skills. They then formed a musical ensemble, (yes, they actually played instruments too) with Halde’s strong vocals closing the curtain on “Hotel.”
Certainly, “Hotel” wasn’t Cirque Eloize’s best production. But if one can forget the setting and just concentrated on the member’s artful circus talents, it didn’t really matter. Cirque Eloize, once again, amazed and put smiles on every face there.