Blast Furnace Room, SteelStacks
By Samantha Burns
The biannual production of the Dance EXposure, made possible by the Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange, allows dancers of all walks of life to submit and perform their choreographic work. Each performance packs a plethora of variety and perspective in genre, tone, and characterization. It consistently proves that the Lehigh Valley is an active ground for the creation and development of concert dance. In this installment, the choreographers included Marianne Delehanty Bator, Sarah Carlson/DanceLink, danceETHOS Performance Company, Breanna Dancy, Candace Easton, Melissa Faller, Narissa Fell, Francesca Marinaro, Eden Weinstein, and Lindsay Capobianco-Wenck.
The opening piece, entitled Refuge, was choreographed by Francesca Marinaro of the Drye/ Marinaro Dance Company. It was a trio of women, dressed in a nude colored leotards and long black skirts. It opened with sustained plies in second position and lunges in unison, with lateral curves and thoracic contractions. The costume choice was extremely striking when the dancers moved; the smoothness of the skirt juxtaposed bursts of explosive phrase work. The choreography mimicked the drama present in the music, yet the dancers exhibited a detached and internally focused performance quality.
Later on in the program, Let It Ring by Eden Weinstein grabbed the audience's attention immediately with the familiar "I Had A Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. as the opening soundscape. This piece seemed to be steeped in political and racial themes; Dr. King's voice, paired with hip hop music and lyrical references to Rosa Parks and the Ferguson shooting embedded a powerful message about unity within diversity. Weinstein's cast explored the entire stage with strong spatial intent and athletic partner work. Her choreography seemed to emphasize the importance of community of the human race, despite any differences that may divide them.
Melissa Faller's piece called again was ethereal yet grounded, with performers dressed in light colored clothing with pedestrian gestures and walking patterns. The movement vocabulary was angular and emphasized precise hand, head, shoulder and arm gestures. Although structural, Faller's choreography had a softness to it, that evoked a bohemian quality throughout the piece. The piece looked extremely well rehearsed, to the point where the cast seemed to live and breathe the essence of the movement. The dancers executed the movement with a maturity and vulnerability that few young performers develop.
The last piece of the show, Breathless by Sarah Carlson and her company DanceLink, focused on the reoccurrences of struggle and pain. Often when a choreographic work explores something as universal and personal as the aftermath of trauma, it becomes heavily reliant on the performers' ability to express pain physically. Carlson went a different, yet refreshing route: her focus was on repetition of a constantly developing theme. Gesture and the use of the face, particularly the mouth, evoked a sense of swallowing or stifling emotion that was visceral and raw. The piece was not overdone; its subtleties created a world in which the audience naturally empathizes with the performers. Similar to the dancers in called again, Carlson's exceptional cast breathed life into every nuance of the choreography. It accomplished what many overdramaticized versions could not; the complex cycle of anguish to detachment, and everything in between that comes with the experience of trauma.
Dance EXposure not only invites both emerging and experienced dance makers to show their work; it also celebrates its life in the Lehigh Valley. This performance was no different; allowing people of all ages and experiences to both perform, as well as view what the local dance community has to offer. This show was successful in its attempt to bring dance to the Lehigh Valley in an approachable, yet professional setting. I sincerely hope that the production continues to grow and attract more attention from other dancers and choreographers who are eager to present original work in an up-and-coming dance community.