From left, Ruby Morales, Bianca Medina, Jannet Galdamez and Jasmine Stanley of Contra Tiempo is dancing "joyUS justUS" on the outdoor stage at Jacob's Pillow. (Photo by Christopher Duggan)
In these divided times, there is no better glue than shared joy and gratitude.
That’s the point of Contra Tiempo’s exuberant and heart-centered plea in “joyUS justUS,” a work now on the outdoor stage at Jacob’s Pillow that urges compassion over cruelty, love over loathing, embrace over acrimony.
And it’s not just a pie-in-the-sky idea. In “joyUS justUS,” choreographer Ana Maria Alvarez, gives the world a pathway out – by showing that a respect for nature’s bounty and a graciousness to all those who came before us – including the Native Americans – is the essential start.
Before the piece even begins, inclusion is emphasized. It starts with the audience – each member is offered a colorful stripe of cloth that can be waved if the spirit demands. Also on stage are offerings to nature and ancestors – old family photos, braided sweet grass, sage, candles, a bowl of water, feathers – all arranged in an altar to faith in family and nature.
Then as the percussive sounds of drums can be heard, we see three woman walking down the aisles from behind the audience to the stage – like brides who commit themselves to the cause. Once on stage, they offer a thanksgiving prayer to water, fire, family and more and ask us to repeat “You and I are us,” again and again.
And then the trio is joined by three others and they explode into the moment the audience was waiting for – a jubilant expression of freedom and movement that got the audience waving their cloth.
Alvarez, whose company hails from Los Angeles, knows how to get her point across. Expertly lacing in the music of the upbeat band Las Cafeteras and the driving sounds of composer d. sabela grimes with a melding style of dance including salsa and hip-hop, she has the dancer touch upon mass incarceration, police pushback on protesters and criminalization of immigrants. Yet she also demonstrates that humanity doesn’t have to be in conflict if mutual respect is at play.
This is of note with a wonderful duet with Jasmine Stanley and Charlie Dando who delivers a give-and-take balance that is both hilarious and fascinating for their sheer physical abilities that are completely in-tune. Also noteworthy is Jannet Gonzalez’s touching solo. Her body is a wave, a fluid figurine, accompanying a story of love for a new-born baby and how that translates into thriving.
All in all, “joyUS justUS" is beautifully uplifting and optimistic in an era that is desperate for solutions.
It's final showing is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 11.