Saturday, June 08, 2002

2 OF 2 (Groundworks Dancetheatre)

Groundworks dances to perfection at CPT

David Shimotakahara is the inspiration behind GROUNDWORKS DANCETHEATER. In January, 2002 he and his company were named as “One Of The Year’s 25 To Watch In The Dance World” by the prestigious Dance Magazine.

Anyone who has attended a dance concert choreographed and danced by Shimotakahara knows why. He is a creative and perfecting choreographer. He is a well-conditioned, well-trained and exacting dancer. Combine the two and you have greatness. The Ohio Arts Council agrees as they have awarded him a fourth consecutive Individual Artist Fellowship this year.

'2 OF 2,' now being staged at Cleveland Public Theatre, which the company calls home, is a combination of a duet of dance pieces and a set of two musical selections. The latter are the works of resident Composer Gustavo Aguilar who has worked with Shimotakahara since 1994 in developing the nucleus of the company’s growing repertory. As the choreographer states, their newest collaboration explores “the limitations placed upon us by external forces, and those which we place upon ourselves.”

MIGRATION is about things in flux, the motion of change. It asks the question, “How far can we journey and still be connected to a place, to each other?” It was premiered in 2001.

The piece starts with tinkling bells, then a blending of lighted color appears, then silhouettes, followed by movements behind two suspended blue curtains, shadow dancing, and finally the appearance of a male and female dancer. He (David Shimotakahara) and she (Felice Bagley) are dressed in sarongs shading from green to purple. He bare chested, she in a tank top.

The dance that follows is a synergy of flying movements, both powerful and athletic. The entire piece was accomplished with little touching and static facial expression. The interweaving of bodies, the sliding behind suspended curtains, often appearing as shadows, creates a searching to connect but having barriers that forbids it. The sheet of sweat which covered and shimmered off Shimotakahara’s muscular body, while Bagley remained emotionally cool added to the total effect. The choreographer’s ability to perfectly blend music and dance was evident throughout. Both dancers were in perfect sync during the entire presentation.

'ONETWOONE SO 2' and 'ONETWOONE SHEKERI 2001' were the two musical pieces centered between the dance selections. SO2 was an improvised tenor sax and live computer processing piece well-performed by Robert Reigle and Phil Curtis. SHEKERI 2001 featured composer Javier Alvarez in a solo for live electro acoustic and shekeri (a musical instrument which looks like a large jar covered with colored beads). Though rather long due to the repeated sounds, it was well performed and haunting.

In 'HEART AND VINE' the choreographer “employs the inherent implications of physical action, reaction and inaction as metaphors for attempts at moving forward, letting go, and finding rest.”

The piece featured Felice Bagley, Amy Miller, Brian Murphy, and Shimotakahara.

Dressed in dark colors, the dancers performed a series of single, duet and quad- danced segments in a cacophony of sound and fast angular and dipping movements. The piece was athletic, stylish and strong. The stage was full of multi-emotions ranging from the sensual intertwining of bodies in a segment by Bagley and Shimotakahara to abandonment of control during a highlight BeBop segment by Miller and Murphy, which ended to rousing applause.

It was exciting to see Murphy finally be given the chance to display his outstanding talent. As a dancer with the Ohio Ballet he was held back by having to conform to the abilities of the weaker male corps members. Here, under the guidance of Shimotakahara, and working with other talented performers, he was allowed to use his athleticism, strong body control, and powerful movements to their fullest. Coupling with the extraordinary Amy Miller allowed for a full exposure of his abilities.

Danced to music provided by the ARC Libre Trio, who moved through the dancers as they played, the piece was both exhilarating and exhausting, if a little long. Shortening it would add to the intensity.

The small but appreciative audience saw a production in which the dancing and music were outstanding. The producers might want to consider putting an intermission between the musical pieces. Breaking the music into two sections would allow each segment to stand on its own and not blend together into a very long interlude.

Capsule judgement: GROUNDWORKS DANCETHEATER is a growing entity that needs to be nourished and treasured. The community needs to back this troupe so that it can become what it should be...a nationally recognized company.