Dance+ by the numbers: Uh one uh two uh three…

Why did we like the Dance+ Performance Festival? We count the ways...

During the final waltz section of the last dance for Part One of this year’s Dance+ Performance Festival at Conduit dance studio, Jessica Hightower’s “Problem of Bias,” an elegant, rigorously executed dance that reminded me somehow of those little dance figures on top of music boxes that pirouette as the tune plays, I realized a couple of things. The first was that I was having a lot of fun at the show, puzzling as some of it was. The second was the structure of this brief recap of the evening!

Keely McIntyre and Jessica Hightower in "Problem of Bias"/Courtesy Conduit

Keely McIntyre and Jessica Hightower in “Problem of Bias”/Courtesy Conduit

10 Reasons to See Dance+, Part One

1. If you have the chance to watch Keely McIntyre dance, you probably should take advantage of it, shouldn’t you?

2. McIntyre performed with Hightower in “Problem of Bias,” and they made a great pairing, Hightower tall and long-limbed complementing the shorter McIntyre. In their unison sections (a lot of the dance), I could see the difference in the speed they moved, McIntyre slightly slower as their bodies rotated in tandem or arms released into space.

3. And yes, “Problem of Bias,” which I thought of as spare, direct, full of arm gestures and deep stretches, but still clear, almost clock-like, is a very well-made dance.

4. So was Sarah Gamblin’s “in the wide deep wake of all that is passing,” which fellow performer Linda K. Johnson contributed to as well: Again, direct but more explosive and determined to undermine the balance of Gamblin and Johnson as they raised legs at angles just difficult enough to look uncomfortable or bounced against the floor, heavily enough to make me wince.

5. The lines of Gamblin’s arms, the take-no-prisoners approach of Johnson, and maybe the hints of choreographer Bebe Miller, with whom Gamblin danced for several years and Johnson has worked.

6. Duet number three: “Omoide Ananda II,” which combined the Indian-based dance of Subashini Ganesan and the Taiko-based, Japanese folk forms of Michelle Fujii. No, I wouldn’t have bet that

Subashini Ganesan and Michelle Fujii merged Japanese folk and Indian forms at Dance+/Conduit

Subashini Ganesan and Michelle Fujii merged Japanese folk and Indian forms at Dance+/Conduit

two separate traditions like this could fit together so well, so beguilingly, but they did.

7. When Ganesan talks about the language of hands and faces, you realize how deeply other cultures have considered things we barely ever talk about. And after she mentioned it, I watched hand gestures in the remaining dances with new interest and intensity.

8. Film! Director Christopher Peddecord and choreographer Kara Girod Shuster’s “Clipped Wing” is a perfect break in a program such Conduit+: well-made, interestingly danced (cutting between two separate duets), hovering between narrative and non-narrative.

9. Were the two duets in “Clipped Wing” the same? They certainly had much of the same movement vocabulary, but the film taught me how critical the set of the dance can be. One duet dance mostly indoors, in a modern looking house, often in the bedroom; the other danced outside in a ruin and the forest, making it seem “Grimm” like, capital R “Romantic,” while the other one seemed contemporary.

10. Maybe your knowledge of myth and religion will help you decode “Cacophony For 8 Players,” by Torben Ulrich (direction), Angelina Baldoz (music), and Beth Graczyk (choreography) with sculptures by Micki Skudlarczyk and Steven Berandelli, which reminded me of Manya Shapiro’s work for Mary Oslund on “Salvation Pieces” back in 1994, as my seat neighbor Martha Ullman West pointed out. Even if you’re as puzzled as I was, it’s fun to watch Graczyk and Allie Hankins dance and Baldoz operate her wristband controls on the music (when she wasn’t playing trumpet, bass or recorder).

Saturday night is the last night of Dance+, Part One, but don’t despair… Part Two runs July 18-20, with a new set of pieces.

One Response.

  1. Martha Ullman West says:

    Good grief, Barry–are you a mind reader? For I too thought of the figures on music boxes during “Problem of Bias,” and I too take enormous pleasure in watching McIntyre dance, for the self-contained liquidity of her performances.
    I’m not so startled by our shared perception of the Bebe Miller influence on “in the wide deep wake of all that is passing”–we have, after all, been watching the same dance for more years than either of us wishes to admit to, and I will add that watching Linda K. Johnson dance–just dance–is something I’ve missed very much, since she’s a terrific performer who hasn’t been doing a whole lot of it in recent years.
    Omoide Ananda II I had seen before, in a shorter version at a Portland Taiko concert, I’m thinking the “Ten Tiny Dances” collaboration, and it was a treat to see it again, though I think it could have been a bit shorter. It started me thinking about other pairings of musicians and dancers–a ballet dancer on point, performing with an African drummer; an African tribal dancer interacting with a harpist might be entertaining, especially for those of us who can’t stand harp music!
    While I thought “Clipped Wing” could also have been cut, and “Cacophony for 8 Players” needed substantial editing (and I found it equally mystifying), all in all, this was a highly successful Dance + opening show and I’m sorry indeed to miss part two, since I’ll be out of town.

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