Sunday, March 26, 2006

Groundworks Dancetheater (Cleveland Public Theatre)

Groundworks Dance at CPT’s Danceworks ‘06

David Shimotakahara’s Groundworks Dance is one of my favorite companies. I look forward to each of their offerings. In their latest concert, which was part of the Cleveland Public Theatre’s DANCEWORKS ‘06,’ as always, the dancing was superb. Unfortunately, as a friend who I was sitting with said, “This wasn’t up to their usual level.” They were speaking of the program selections. As much as I hate to admit it, I agree.

‘INSIDEOUT,’ in its world premiere, was a series of short pieces developed around the interplay of internal and external perceptions. It was performed as a series of intimate duets in which inner and outer worlds were expressed through word and dance. Though the idea was clever, at times there was a disconnect between the words and movements. This was, in part, caused by the decision to speak the words as if they were a flat melody, often ignoring the phrasing which would have increased the clarity of the message.

The segments ranged from comedy shticks to enactment of serious problems. Two segments, which weren’t word supported were piece highlights. A delightful interlude found Shimotakahara and Mark Otloski using a pair of baggy pants and an oversize jacket to twist, roll and gyrate through, under, around and in. Another excellent segment found Felice Bagley and Jennifer Lott interacting with two vivid white spots in an otherwise black space. Bagley was superb. Lott, a trainee who is still learning Shimotakahara’s precision movements, often flowed in her arm and body movements rather than using precise maneuvers ingrained into the psyches of the other dancers.

A segment that highlighted the weakness of the concept took place late in the program when Amy Miller and Mark Otloski beautifully danced an introspective concept. The spoken segments, however, didn’t parallel the dancers’ moods and movements.

In its Cleveland premiere, ‘TIPPING POINT,’ as choreographed by KT Niehoff, found the dancers sitting on the floor for most of the number. The piece was intended to explore “the relationship between intense isolation and the group mind.” Set to Sarah Murat’s discordant repetitive beating music, the twenty-minute offering became mind numbing after a while. As someone behind me said, “Why don’t they get up and do something, already?” Well, maybe that was Neihoff’s intention. By repeating the same head, arm and body movements at varying speeds, after a while, like work on an assembly line, the participants get to their tipping point. Even with that clarity of explanation, the over-all effect of the piece was not extremely positive.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: I have high expectations for Groundworks Dance concerts. My expectation of superb dancing was met, but the programming left something to be desired.