Thursday, May 29, 2014
Samuels Theater/Cedar Crest College
by Angeli Sion
Last Saturday marked the presentation of an evening of works by the newly named performance company danceETHOS, formerly known as Fusion. As the program notes state, the series of dance works mark a turning point amidst their past repertoire as a group of five more focused explorations. Less cluttered, it was leaner. Artistic Director Alex Reekie and company members presented original choreography in streamlined programming in comparison to previous showings.
One work of note, however, featured the choreography of New York-based guest artist, Keith Thompson. Rekindled Beginnings was the outcome of an extended residency at Cedar Crest College, the staged venue for the evening. Auditions took place last November for a four day intensive in January, for which Lehigh Valley
Dance Exchange commissioned Thompson, Artistic Director of danceTactics performance group and former Trisha Brown company member.
And no wonder Thompson describes in danceTactics’s mission statement the company’s grasp of dance as an articulated space shaped by its innate capacity to express itself interwoven with narrative. It showed. Rekindled Beginnings, an original danceTactics piece, constantly flowed and poured from one section to the next with an immense amount of partnering work.
Never was there a moment where one dancer was solitary. The movement seemed to speak to containment and breaking forth on an edge, whether that meant creating an implied boundary in space between groups or turning in one’s own confines. Phrases were started by one or two and taken on by another, perhaps broken into difference as the first moved offstage, allowing for dissonance and sameness to exist in the same space.
Every dancer was wearing a white button-down to the elbow or wrist with brown or olive green pants. Synchronicity of movement and time swiftly ran in and out of multiplicities of line, both collective and individual.
Questions of why we dance together also came up in the next work Brittany Fetherolf’s Sixty-third Psalm.
Three black figures sharply silhouetted against sunset orange quickly became vital with articulated sharp movement. The lights brightened to reveal prairie dresses, french braids, and flowing skirts below the knee. Hard, loose, fast and regularly, they moved. One dancer was clearly pregnant, bringing up the idea of labor and
the things we carry in the body. I could not help questioning at what point does clothing become costume, and does the clothing mark the persona we move or do we mark the moving persona?
The last work Awake and Arise more directly referenced socially embodied attitudes in its
concern for placement and posturing. In its opening moments, gestures moved around and through a languid catch and release. It was constant. There was a sense of drama drawn out over time with a self referential pointedness to being performed and seen. It was neither easy nor contemplative. Coming from fashion, I find it inescapable to not notice and care for what bodies are bearing in performance. There were pauses in which the dancers held each other’s heads and their own. What does it mean to hold the head of another or your own; what does it mean to find one’s own bearings?
The program notes direct the reader to the company’s new name and accompanying new mission statement. Ethos can refer to the characteristic spirit of a collective. The notes go on to describe ethos as a catalyst to transform an author’s closed solipsism into a sensorial dialogue with the audience, and a desire to create works accessible to all audiences. This brings to question whether or not a performance needs an audience, and if
the content somehow loses its value and meaning if not observed and witnessed. That ever present question for the artist, “For whom is it for?” What can the gaze add? I wouldn’t worry too much about taking the audience’s subjective ideas into account as the notes indicate. The form and content of the works can more easily hold themselves up than perhaps thought. We can easily implicate ourselves on our own.