Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company in "From the Mind / of a single long vine / one hundred opening lives" (Photo by Gary Gold)
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company’s “From the mind / of a single long vine / one hundred opening lives” is a journey – one into a world that feels ancient, primal and one that tickles the imagination of those watching it unfold.
Presented on Friday night at The Egg, the dance based on a haiku poem dates back to 2001. And while the cast is smaller than its original, the evening length work emanates a new glow. Perhaps it’s the atmospheric lighting design by Stephanie Van Sandt, in which audiences can easily sense time lapses and moods shifts; or the costumes by Kim Vanyo that glimmer and flow.
Certainly, much can be said for the synergistic spark that was ignited by choreographer Ellen Sinopoli and set designer Jim Lewis. (Think Martha Graham and Isamu Noguchi.) Lewis’ smooth wooden pieces that are as much props as they are sets, define the space and movement. Their look takes the viewer back to a time where nature, not manufactured molds and plastics, was the stuff life was made.
Add that to the Sinopoli’s musical selections: Rokia Traore, Aisha Kahil, Ali Jihad Racy and Foday Musa Suso, among others, and one can’t help but feel steeped in an exotic, African-tinged world.
The piece begins with the marvelous Laura Teeter as the sojourner. Swinging and pushing one of Lewis’ sculptures, like a suitcase, Teeter moves along like the jaunty traveler, daringly dipping her toe into the waters of a new land.
As she departs, the "Caravan" moves in. Five enter and glide and slide along a bench. As they move forward, they people the world.
As life in the land progresses, the audience watches love unfold, women at work, a child at play and destruction and death. Yet it circles back around to a land revived, life goes on for those willing to embrace it.
There are several memorable sections to the dance. “The Betrothed” with Andre Robles and Sara Senecal is sweet, but not as seductive as it could be. Robles and Senecal play tentative lovers, perhaps a little overwhelmed of the prospects of marriage.
In addition to the dance itself, the thing I liked about this duet on a bench was Robles himself. His confidence as a performer is growing. Yet he has yet to unleash his full power. Part of the problem may be that he’s trying to match the tone of an all-female ensemble. Sinopoli’s troupe needs more men to tease out Robles’ virile nature that he keeps, unfortunately, under wraps.
But back to the dance’s indelible moments, which also include “Predators.” This explosive section is a battle against unseen forces that scatter and kill.
The “Shrouded Soul,” in which they honor the dead, the casualties of war, is also encapsulated in the mind’s eye. It’s both dignified and heartbreaking.
In the end, the community of “From the mind / of a single long vine / one hundred opening lives” is restored by literally locking together the pieces of a mysterious icon (another Lewis creations).
With this, the sojourner moves on. But the audience doesn’t. The images resonate for some time.