Saturday, October 05, 2002

Groundworks at St. Peter Church (Groundworks Dancetheatre)

GROUNDWORKS DANCETHEATRE continues to grow its reputation

David Shimotakahara, the founder and Artisitc Director of Groundworks Dancetheatre, is one of the world’s truly nice people. He is also a genius choreographer and an equally proficienct dancer. He founded the company to "develop and present a new choreography that encourages collaboration with ohter art disciplines." He is also dedicated to bringing the dance to various settings and right in the face of the audience. Groundworks has no permanent home. Like the gypsys, it finds the right places to spread its art. Their latest performances were done at the magnificent St. Peter Church near downtown Cleveland. This is a church that has dedicated itself to a minimalist setting and a maximum purpose. The church stripped itself of ornateness and has become a community religious and arts center.

It is appropriate that Dancetheatre performs in such a venue. The audience sits close up...surrounding the stage, sitting from 3 to no more than 10 feet from the dancers. They experience the dance...hear the shoes squeek on the floor, experience the heavy breathing and see the sweat on the performer’s bodies. They are no passive viewers, they are active, involved.

Shimotakahara’s own choreography, and the guest dance directors that he has invited to particpate, lend themselves to this format. The stress is on dance and the blending of the physical with original music and creative lighting. Sets or costumes aren’t featured.

The recently completed program included four dances and two musical interludes. "Several Truths," danced by Amy Miller and Shimotakahara was a perfect blending of power, flexibility and emotion. The dancers intertwined, rolled, swirled, and gyrated in perfect sync with the atonal music. A metaphor for the many stages of sadness "Tristeza" featured the wonderous Amy Miller in a solo piece set to soaring music which was enchanced by the high domed cathedral. "The Garden," choreographed by Shimotakahara, was presented in its world premiere. Though rather long, the methaphor of the garden’s plants paralleling the creation of life, the wilting and disappearance of those growing flowers as three dancers became two, then one and finally none, worked well. Felise Bagley, Amy Miller and Xochil Tejheda de Cerda grew and departed as one. The piece was well lit by Dennis Dugan and the live music well played by Phil Curtis and Roger Zahab. The last dance segment, "Circadian," also choreographed by Shimotakahara, deals with "the rhythms associated with the earth’s rotation affecting our behavior and biology." The dancers, Mark Otloski , extremely slender and well over 6 feet tall and Felise Begley, petite and just barely 5 feet were, well matched. Their intertwinings and their contrasting sizes helped convey the feeling of free yet attached movements as they flowed in circles and patterns of separtness yet togetherness. The only problem, if there is one, is that all the dances have the same heavy feel. A little frivolity here and there would be welcome.

Capsule judgement: Groundworks Dancetheatre is a Cleveland treasure. They need your attendance at performances. They need your financial donations to keep the company afloat. We don’t want to lose this gem!