Saturday, July 02, 2005

Groundworks - Cain Park

GROUNDWORKS again displays perfection at Cain Park

Humans are storytellers. The narratives they tell perpetuate the values, morals and history of their culture. David Shimotakahara, the Artistic Director of GroundWorks Dancetheater, has taken this theme and built it into the company’s Cain Park program.

The small Alma Theatre is a perfect venue for GroundWorks whose selections tend to work best when the audience is up-front and personal.

The program opened with choreographer Beth Corning’s ‘At Once There Was a House.’ The piece, which is a series of vignettes, has become part of the company’s continuing repertoire with good reason. It lets the cast members not only dance but narrate. It also allows for some lightness and humor. Danced in solos, duets, trios and quartets the piece, which includes music by Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan, Lou Harrison and others, spans the blues, Asian, operatic and classical sounds. Using almost every modern dance technique, the variety of movements in the performance catch and hold the audience’s attention. Highlights were a section in which each dancer holds a freeze and exchanges positions with another company member; Shimotakahara coupling with a stuffed puppet; Felice Bagley exploring a fence and its role in life’s passages; Mark Otloski dancing around, on and beside a chair; Amy Miller exploring a house; and the entire company in oversized shoes going out into and interacting with the audience.

‘Ephemeral,’ choreographed by Shimotakahara, was conceived to the music of Gustavo Aguilar, who often supplies the sounds for the company. Combining primitive and plaintive music, the high energy piece was perfectly executed. Enhanced by the lighting of Dennis Dugan Felise Bagley and Mark Otloski created the image of being attracted to the lighting shadows while attempting to escape their hold, much like moths to a flame. The duo’s unit of moves was visually compelling.

The world premiere of Shimotakahara’s ‘Kabila (The Tribe),’ was magical. Janet Bolick and fabric artist Esther Montgomery’s isometric costumes added much visual excitement to the performance. Danced to sounds of African voices, the choreography recreated traditional dark continent movements into modern dance action, following the musical changes from chants to heavy drum beats. Again, the theme of narratives was showcased with various tales told through bodily movements.

GroundWorks has the best complete dance company in the area. Each dancer has total control over his/her movements. Honed by Shimotakahara’s perfectionistic philosophy of choreography and dance there appears never to be a stumble or error or unnecessary movement. It is amazing to watch Amy Miller, Felise Bagley, Mark Otloski and Shimotakahara display complete understanding of the need to make and the ability to create each movement into a complete set of beginning, middle and finality. Trainee Jennifer Lott has improved greatly since she has come under the guidance of Shimotakahara which is taking her on the journey to become a dancer of the quality of the rest of the company. It was also pleasing to see that Otloski has completely recovered from an injury which kept him out of the company’s last several concerts.

Capsule Judgment GroundWorks Dancetheater’s latest concert at Cain Park was slam dunk. As has come to be expected from this fine company, the evening was one of excitement and enjoyment!