Photo by Gary Gold
The best thing about Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company is its willingness to experiment – not just on the part of its artistic director but its six dancers too.
Part of that eagerness to test its artistic stretch comes in the form of collaboration with all kinds of other artists and art. And one of the more pleasant and enduring experiments is the modern troupe’s annual showing at the Opalka Gallery at Sage College in Albany.
On Friday evening, the ensemble was cradled in the realm of a Kathryn Field’s nature paintings and figurative sculptures. There, the company unleashed its whirling sensibilities to reflect on Field’s creations with three works in the company’s repertory and six dancer-made solos that are based on Sinopoli’s “Solo Flights.”
Dancers selected certain works that spoke to them – Louisa Barta loved the glowing leaf paintings; Andre Robles, the abstract sculpture of stone and driftwood; and Laura Teeter, everything of color. These little solos, while charming and revealing of each dancers’ personality, were mere interludes for three of Sinopoli’s pieces that she restaged for an audience sitting on all four sides of the room.
What makes the Opalka evenings so intriguing is the dancers are close – toe-to-toe with the audience. In this intimate setting, the audience can feel their power, hear their breath and see with searing clarity the shapes that Sinopoli is so well known for creating.
But it is the theme of nature and the physical body – like the paintings and the sculpture -- that overrides the evening. Sinopoli wisely selected such works as “Texture of the Whole,” a work she created with physicist and University at Albany professor Keith Earle, as the ensemble opener for the evening. Here the dancers draw out concepts of physics in a series of crashes and constructions in ways that explore the beauty and force of the science.
“Clusters,” a collaboration with choreographer Rob Kitsos, was also shown. To music that ebbs and flows, the dancers assemble and disperse in as if a breeze, sometimes stiff and other times gentle, tosses them about. Sara Senegal is a raging storm throughout, plowing through others and hurling dancers about in a way that feels violent.
While “Texture of the Whole” and “Clusters” still carry the eye, none of Sinopoli’s works can compare to the mastery of her “Dreams.” The first work she created for her company still holds up and captures the imagination.
To the minimalist music by Avro Part, the duet, staged here with Teeter and Robles, is a head first fall into the mystery of sleep. The dancers begin, standing, rocking back and forth like the pendulum of a clock, marking the time before they descend into the abyss. At that moment, the audience is captivated and stay with the dancers throughout their restless slumber.
An amazing work, “Dreams” remains one of Sinopoli’s best. And no matter how many times I see it, I am forever beguiled by its exquisite honesty.