Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company in their eye-popping costumes by Kim Vanyo worn at the Opalka Gallery.
Over the decades, I have concluded that the best Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company shows are not in your typical theater setting. Her meandering works are well-suited for out-of-ordinary locations — playgrounds, store fronts, city streets and art galleries.
Perhaps it is the size of her contemporary dance ensemble – five to six dancers who are well-served in an intimate setting. Regardless, her return to the Opalka Gallery at Russell Sage College on Friday night, where she was a regular but held at bay by the pandemic, was a welcome sight.
And is always the case, Sinopoli’s dances there were a duet — a choreographic conversation with an artist — this time around it was with Judith Braun and her graceful and psychedelic paintings.
The Braun’s works are large splashes on unframed canvases, mostly black and white designs that feature swirling and straight lines, eyes and words that make one stop and pause. Hanging from tall stanchions on dollies, these works of art became rolling dancers — joining the ensemble to augment Sinopoli’s smart-looking quintet.
For the evening, Sinopoli created four, untitled dances. The first to blues guitar from 1920s had a mischievous feel. The dancers’ feet and calves were the first to appear behind the paintings, moving them as if the paintings themselves had legs. The dancers were also dressed in neon unitards by Kim Vanyo that popped in contrast to the black and white backdrop of the paintings.
But the costume design also complemented to the work with its black accents that trimmed an open back and squiggled down one side. Their boldness also tapped into the hints of color — pink, lime and orange — that Braun occasionally added to her symmetrical works.
Now to the dances. The first was fun with Laura Teeter appearing to gossip with a giant head and Erin Dooley hiding her eyes from another. There was a bit of a cartoon feel, but also a grand Busby Berkeley style spectacular as the dancers moved the painting in and around each other in what became a kaleidoscope of moving images.
The ending was also memorable – the dancers and the paintings aligned on a diagonal — all taking their bow.
In the second work, to music by Wayne Shorter, the pieces were rolled off to the side and the dancers ate up the space with rollicking jumps, reels and falls. Here, Sara Senecal captured the imagination with her attack and zest.
Then the audience picked up their chairs to turn their point of view to the other room where Dooley performed a cat-like solo that was steeped in snaky movement and sudden stops, showing off her mettle as a dancer.
The evening ended with a group work that Sinopoli said was inspired by thoughts of the Brazilian rainforest. To music by Dino Saluzzi, it had an exotic feel with the four female dancers moved symbiotically in duos while Andre Robles filled up the room with his larger-than-life joy.
Here's to wishing the company’s next visit to the Opalka isn't another year away.