Monday, October 27, 2003

Groundworks Dancetheater--October, 2003 (Groundworks)


I was once asked by a reader of my reviews, “If you had only one entertainment event to attend, and wanted to be assured that you’d experience excellence, where would you go?” Without any hesitation I answered, “Groundworks Dancetheater.” Why? I have never attended a performance of David Shimotakahara’s dance troupe that has been wanting. David has the ability and foresight to be able to blend audience appeal, creativity, and constructive vision to insure an evening of entertainment. He has assembled a corps of dancers who buy in to his philosophy and enjoy working together and creating exciting and involving illusions for an audience. The company has been called intelligent, fresh and invigorating. It is that, and more!

Groundworks latest event was performed at St. Peter’s Church, in downtown Cleveland. It was part of the company’s Landmarks Series. These productions take place in settings not usually thought of as dance venues. Pilgrim Church in the historic Tremont district, the Icehouse in Akron, and St. Peter’s have all been enhanced with the company’s works. This format brings people to interesting locations in the community with the possibility of experiencing dance and music in new places.

The St. Peter’s program consisted of the wonderful “Major To Minor” in which a point and counterpoint of music and dancers were evident. Performed to five musical recordings of different moods and paces, Felise Bagley, Amy Miller, Mark Otloski and Shimotakahara, all classically trained ballet dancers, performed contemporary and modern dance movements with ease. They danced slowly to “I Wished on the Moon,” and let loose and had fun with “Peanut Vendor.” They used their bodies, the floor and a banana to captivate the sold-out audience.

“Lavender” was a musical interlude performed by Gaelyn Aguilar and Derek Keller. Though it was sometimes difficult to hear the words in the vast, highly arched cathedral, the emotional tone of the music was involving.

“Ephemeral,” precisely choreographed by Shimotakahara, and perfectly performed by Felise Bagley and Mark Otloski, was based on music composed and played by Gustavo Aguilar and Alan Lechusza. The audience, seating no more than twenty feet from the dancers observed powerful bodies performing slow controlled movements, with little physical contact, doing counter movements to the discordant sounds. The audience appeared awed by the performance and responded to the conclusion with long and continuous applause.

“Take 2,” in its Cleveland premiere, is a collaborative piece between the dance corps and the musicians. Developed through ongoing exploration, the piece’s open structure allows both dancers and musicians to improvise and react. The overall effect was a visual and emotional roller coaster ride which was met with appreciative audience response.

Capsule judgement: If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing Groundworks Dancetheater perform, do so!