"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Live Animals" Review--Hamlin Park Fieldhouse

The progressive modern dance company, “Live Animals Performance Collective and Friends,” premiered Go at The Hamlin Park Fieldhouse on October 29 and 30.  The company is directed by Kate Corby, also on the dance department faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The performance inspired viewers to consider their own choreographic patterns in any seemingly ordinary day. The pieces in Go were connected “through their explorations of identity, borders and geography,” Corby explained in the program notes.  Some of my vivid recollections of these discoveries are as follows.

Carrie Hanson, faculty member at the Dance Center of Columbia College and director of the dance company, The Seldoms, choreographed the first of five short pieces, “Right of Way Management.”  Kate Corby and Chris Walker, the two captivating performers, used pedestrian movement as an impetus for motion, but frequently froze together as if caught in a still frame.  Initially, I found their intense focuses to be looking, but not truly seeing each other, and their movement with straight legs sweeping the floor appeared deliberately awkward.  As the piece continued, curiosity grew in their gazes, and awareness of each other’s presence heightened, even if the connection was one of conflict and negotiation of space and direction.

Dancers in “Always in April,” choreographed by Corby, demonstrated juxtaposing emotions by conveying the power of dancing alone but simultaneously the desire to connect with another.  As they progressed across the stage in an accumulation of balletic movement, they punctuated their movement with sharp contrasting movement such as slapping their chests or spinning rapidly.  The women finally recognized each other’s presence and began awkwardly touching each other’s shoulders, then backing away.  That first acknowledgement established a sense of intimacy and tension, and I became aware of their female sexuality, an energy that grew as the piece developed.

“Excerpt in Blue,” choreographed primarily by Emily Miller from the “Get Down/Pick Up Company,” was a beautifully musical piece that seemed to describe the motion of waves and ocean tides.  As they came together to dance as partners and were separated from each other in an ebb and flow, it was fitting that they danced to ocean effects and the soaring voice of Joni Mitchell’s “California.”

“Reflections” choreographed by Arnsenio Andrade-Calderon, a celebrated Cuban dancer and has worked with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NCDC), was an incredibly strong presentation of the power of the human body.  The solo dancer, Chris Walker, who has also performed with NCDC, began in a red-tinged spotlight.  He began to twitch and flex his muscles like an insect, the light and shadows emphasizing the power in is back, shoulders, and arms.  As he continued through a series of athletic floor work and controlled standing legwork, his sweat and struggle was visible.  Walker’s performance could be viewed as either a decay of life or an affirmation; it reminded me of how we are truly amazing creatures.

The final piece, entitled “Go,” by Kate Corby and dancers, was the only trio in the show, and it shed light on the dynamic of groups of people as they meet and depart; cliques, anxieties, and opinions all were apparent in the dancers’ faces as they chose with whom to partner.  At times, two of the women stood with deliberate, but not affected looks and glances, while the third dancer performed full-bodied, quirky movement upstage.  I was intrigued by the power of a simple glace and the array of emotions—inclusion, invitation, uncertainty—it can convey.

The cohesive show inspired me to consider the everyday interactions between people and the power that non-verbal language possesses.  The patterns we weave in space leave traces of us, both literally and metaphorically. Each personal interaction can be a frozen frame of a duet or trio, as we choreograph moments in each day.

Live Animals will perform Go for New York audiences in February, and Carrie Hanson’s The Seldoms will perform on March 12-14, 2010, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

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