Monday, June 25, 2012


Yes, this blog is creaking back to life for another summer of dance reviews from the American Dance Festival.  Life and work has kept me too busy to review any other performances this year, though I've seen no shortage of dance concerts!  I hope to keep up more of a constant presence throughout the year, but I probably shouldn't make any promises.

Nonetheless, at least we have the summer!

I've been to three of the performances at ADF this summer, the Festival's first season under new direction.  Jodee Nimerichter took over as director after long-time leader Charles Reinhart retired at the end of last season.  As usual, the season line-up features both established power-houses and relative newcomers--it's been exciting to see some new companies this year.

Stephen Petronio Company by Sarah Silver

The Stephen Petronio Company performed at the Durham Performing Arts Center June 15-16.  They presented the evening-length "Underland," a dark collection of danced scenes set to several songs by Australian rocker Nick Cave.  Here's an excerpt of my review:

 Three white panels were spread across the back wall, upon which images splashed, seeped and scrawled: tangled lines, billowing smoke, flames, car crashes, soldiers, drifting clouds, rain. A man crawled headfirst down a ramp from the wings, a slow descent onto the stage. A deep metallic creaking, the underwater rumblings of a large ship, echoed through the theater. Into this darkened world, a look, perhaps, under the surface of our consciousness, the dancers sliced across the stage. Their shirts were torn, limbs fierce and precise as they stabbed, flew, and swept through the darkness. Despite their ragged appearance, and their slight off-kilter alignment (one leg was often bent while the other was steely straight), the dancers did not strike me as denizens of this dark world. Rather, they flashed like bright shards of glass, or the thin edge of a dagger--sharp, clean, and dangerous.

Read the full review here.

Keigwin + Co. by Matthew Murphy.

Next up was Keigwin + Co., at the Reynolds Industries Theater June 19-21.  Another group of dynamite dancers, the company presented five works that showcased the range of the company.  An excerpt:

 Insect behavior, waiting rooms, Darwinian theory, and brotherly love--Larry Keigwin finds inspiration everywhere. The program of five works presented by Keigwin + Company at the Reynolds Industries Theater on June 21st reveals Keigwin's range as a dance-maker, as well as the bonds between these diverse dances. These works are all music-driven and deeply rooted in strong dance and choreographic technique. Even when the movement draws from very human gestures, the style cannot be called pedestrian. Keigwin maintains that dance can--and should--be both artistically expressive and entertaining, and he brings his experience with various pop culture genres to his choreography. The entertainment factor also seems to be created by the close connection between music and dance, the use of clean and complex unison and group work, and a style that tends to shift movement ideas before they go on too long. Above all, perhaps, is Keigwin's use of drama.

Here's the full review.

Scottish Dance Theatre in Drift.  Photo by Sara Davis.

Finally, this last weekend I saw Scottish Dance Theatre, and they blew me away.  The three dances moved me, inspired me, set me thinking.  I struggled to find the words to adequately describe the dances, though I still haven't figured out what was so elusive about them!  Here is an excerpt: 

Kate Weare's work is often described as raw, but hers is not a messy, chaotic rawness that bursts into the open, at least in "Lay Me Down Safe," created especially for SDT. Rather, this dance pulls you down below the surface of human intimacy and vulnerability, sometimes plunging suddenly into an uncomfortable space, other times peeling away one layer of tender skin at a time--just a little wince, but it bleeds just the same. The eight dancers of "Lay Me Down Safe," three women and five men, are all clothed in dresses of muted blues and greys. The skirts swish as three men slide forwards and backwards, swinging their hips suggestively, their arms crossed above their heads. They introduce the fluid sensuality that characterizes much of the movement, from both men and women. Hips swivel, legs sweep, arms wrap lightly and tightly around torsos. As the dancers switch from one partner to another, they slip between an honest vulnerability and a harder-edged, sometimes violent, eroticism. A man and woman tangle themselves in each other's arms, staying close even as she begins to thrust out her chest, faster and faster bashing her breasts against his head. Is this a violation? Is this pleasure? It's almost funny, but hard to watch, too. Even the soft parts of ourselves can hurt another.

And the rest of the review is here.

Scottish Dance Theatre in Lay Me Down Safe.  Photo by Nicole Guarino.

I'll be heading back to Durham on Friday to review Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.  Watch for an excerpt here over the weekend.

Thanks for tuning back in!