Ten Tiny Dances: One Epic Step | Jennifer McKeever (Oct. 2013)

Ten Tiny Dances: One Epic Step
Saturday, October 12, 2013

By Jennifer McKeever

Sarah Carlson, founder and artistic director of DANCELINK has presented a series called "Ten Tiny Dances” in the Lehigh Valley for the past five years. Her latest chapter, “Ten Tiny Dances: One Epic Step” was presented at Touchstone Theater on October 11th, and 12th with quite a good turnout. Ten pieces were presented with five fresh and new segments all choreographed and directed by a single choreographer, Sarah Carlson.

On a four by four foot black box, dancers performed intricate, innovative and sometimes amusing choreography. Like a small canvas, Carlson paints her choreographic ideas into colorful pieces that are alive and cohesive.  Carlson poses the question, "How is it that we figure out what is important and what really matters at various points in our lives?"  Thus the basis of the program.
"Off the Cuff" were three structured improvisations of verbal "hashing it out," says Carlson.  Jackie Kokolus and Alexandra Reekie riffed on topics provided by Carlson just minutes before taking the stage. One dancer moved in an erratic,  interpretive fashion as the other dancer stood or sat and spoke of issues such as integrity, relationships, success, freedom, spirituality, miracles, heaven and hell.  There was a deep sigh and a ring of a bell in between each topic to give a smooth transition.

Some memorable points were made in "Off the Cuff."  For example, "Sometimes it takes other people to say you're successful for you to realize it," says Kokolus.   Hell was described to be motivation to be a good person with the temptation of evil while knowing the difference being wrong versus right.  "Off the Cuff" was witty especially with such little time to think of how to speak and dance about the topics.  They were a good team and handled themselves creatively and were well spoken.

"Doubt" used a chair on the black box as a symbolic prop. Dancer Melissa Janssen contorted herself all sorts of ways around the chair such as abackbend around the back of chair, a shoulder balance off the side, and she even balanced on the chair like she was flying.  Dressed in a pretty white gown, Janssen groped at her pant legs then reached beyond the box as if to dare herself to step off.  Janssen used a bicycling motion and circling movement of her feet to sustain a phrase.  Janssen reached down the sides of the black box as if doubting the space beyond.

"Regret" danced by Ashley Taylorbegan with a beautiful image of a lovely maiden statuesque in her white dress stroking her beautiful long blonde hair.  Twirling her fingers then wringing her hair with her back to the audience, Taylor was graceful and taunting.  Taylor shifted her weightin a circling fashion, walked in place with no where to go.  She then twitched and let her hair cascade over the box glistening like silk.  Rising at the edge of the box on her toes she balanced looking outward shaking her head no as if in regret.  The music "You and I" by Jeff Buckley made her presence quite dramatic.

"Liberation" was asurprising, entertaining dance performed by Kokolus to the upbeat music of "Just What I Needed" by the Cars. Dressed in a pink robe, it reminded me of a girl jamming to a good tune as she got ready for her day just dancing away full fledged in such a confined space like the size of a small bathroom. Kokolus moved well as the choreography matched the music andthe dancer's interpretation made for a very amusing piece.

"Breathe"  was a stunning performance by Simon Phoenix to the profound song "It Ain'tEasy," by David Bowie. Starting with isolation of body parts like fingers and head, the dancer grew into the chorus where he got down and break danced.  Great footwork led to different balances upside down; he even jumped on one hand. He continued to impressively spin on his head as the crowd roared.

The overall concept of using a small space to present important themes and questions was successfully executed.  Sometimes less is more.  It was a pleasure to hear the laughter and the excitement of the audience.  Carlson asks "What satisfies the deepest part of our soul?”  Could it be perhaps an isolated moment in a theater watching modern dance and leaving with the question itself?