Sunday, March 12, 2006

Danceworks '06 (Inlet Dance, Morrison Dance, Anteus Dance) CPT

DANCEWORKS ‘06 at CPT meets with mixed success

Inlet Dance Theatre is impressive

Bill Wade, the Artistic Director and Founder of Inlet Dance, has a mission. He intensely believes that contemporary dance training and performing can positively impact lives. Besides directing the regular company, which is in its fifth season, Wade works with a trainee/apprentice program, mentors pre-professional dancers who have come to Cleveland to study, and works in outreach programs in various school districts, such as the recently completed month-long Mosaic Experience at Cleveland Heights High School.

It is obvious in attending Inlet Dance concerts that Wade is enamored with a search for wholeness, for the truth, for relationships based on a respectful balance and full of trust, and journeys toward redemption.

The company was impressive in their recent residency at Cleveland Public Theatre, as part of Danceworks 06.

’WONDROUS BEASTS’ found the well-disciplined dancers, who were dressed in colorful tie-dyed unitards, moving in slow-motion controlled maneuvers. Working as individual animals, through a series of gymnastic moves they masterfully combined into a single centipede. The gymnastic moves perfectly fit Ryan Lott’s editing of Mum and Siguar Rose’s jungle music and sounds. Dennis Dugan’s lighting helped enhance the ever-changing moods.

‘SKIRTING THE HEART,’ in its premiere presentation, used religious ritual as an illustration of moving toward salvation. The dancers, dressed in black flowing skirts, eventually disappeared below a ground cover only to emerge in cleansed all-white costumes. Choreographed by Stephen Wynne, the movements perfectly fit Transglobal Underground, KIA’s tribal-type music. The piece was intense and, though a little too long, impressive.

‘THIS COULD HURT,’ based on John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart, was a wonderful enactment of a group of guys having an adventure full of risk-taking behavior. The gymnastic movements were well executed by Dan Barnes, Joshua Brown, Brett Parker and Justin Stentz. Stentz, who is a company trainee, was impressive throughout the evening. He has the makings of an excellent dancer.

‘ASCENSION,’ also a company premiere, contained many of Wade’s signature maneuvers: controlled gymnastic movements, duos balancing like teeter totters, strong arm thrusts, unchanging facial expressions, male and female equality in strength movements, repetition without redundancy and serious undertones. The piece was danced to the electronic music of Ryan Lott. Lott, who is becoming the favorite of not only Wade, but Groundworks’ David Shimotakahara, is a master at creating contemporary sounds that lend themselves to creative choreography. Performed like a three-ring circus, the trio of couples became acrobats as they balanced and worked with full trust to create impressive visual images. Leila Pelhan, Rebecca Inman, Margret Ludlow, Joshua Brown, Elizabeth Stratton and Justin Stentz were amazing in their body control.

The program ended with Steve Rooks’ ‘THE DOOR.’ The least impressive piece of the evening, it was the most traditional in use of modern dance movements. Billed as a journey through redemption, the dancers were not as engaged in the piece as in other offerings.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Inlet Dance Theatre impressed a sold out audience with a program that generally showed fine choreography combined with excellent dance skills.

Morrison Dance fails to capture audience with Irish dance-theatre pieceMorriso

In its recent residence as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Danceworks 06, Morrison Dance presented Christopher Johnston’s ‘THE MAD MASK MAKER OF MAIGH EO.’ It was an attempt to combine dance and story into a unified whole.

The dance/play was based on two Irish myths. ‘THE RED-HAIRED GIRL FROM THE BOG’ centers on a bewitching fairy who could appear as a hag or as a beautiful young woman. The second myth is that there were good fairies to whom people could turn when there was trouble in their village or town. The combined tale found the red haired girl coming to a village and removing the mask-maker, who had been taking the souls of people to make masks. Johnston states that the primary theme of his play is “how at times conflicting and times comingling influences of paganism and Christianity have forged the distinctly Irish spirit.”

In spite of valiant efforts by actors Derdriu Ring, Meg Chamberlain and Andrew Narten, the dialogue was generally flat, fringing on boring. Sarah Morrison’s choreography did not integrate well into the story line.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Seeing a dance company combined with a company of actors to present a performance can provide a compelling evening. It requires a creative script based on an engaging story into which the dancing must blend so that it becomes a seamless unit. Unfortunately, ‘THE MAD MASK MAKER OF MAIGH EO’ was not such an offering.

Anteus Dance Company investigates human cruelty

“Mankind is capable of great cruelty. Humanity also possesses a vast capacity for love and forgiveness.” These two themes were at the core of ‘BURN THE HEAVENS,’ Antaeus Dance Company’s recent production as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Danceworks 06.

Performed to the music of Mudbaby, the piece, which was developed through a collaborative process between the dancers and the choreographer, set a clear tone at the beginning. Unfortunately, though well-intentioned, the piece was repetitive and instead of building empathy as it progressed, it lost the audience’s attention and the impact of the offering by being overly long and static. How many times do we have to watch pushing and shoving, hitting and recoiling, dragging and punching before we get the point? As a twenty-minute piece this would have been effective. As an entire program it was just too agonizingly slow and redundant to hold attention.

The dancers successfully executed Joan Meggitt’s intent. The music ate into our souls. James Longs’ jail-like set was well-intentioned, but, unfortunately, by Meggitt allowing the “victims” to escape outside the cell, she broke the feeling of “there is no escape.”

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Meggit needs to carefully examine what effect she wants from her audience and choreograph to that end. Her well intentioned concept in ‘BURN THE HEAVENS’ lost its impact due to a lack of restraint.