Saturday, July 01, 2006

Groundworks (Cain Park)

GROUNDWORKS expands repertoire at Cain Park

David Shimotakahara is unique among dance company artistic directors. He is not only a perfectionist when it comes to developing precise dance numbers, and is a superb dancer, but he is also willing to take risks. He schedules his company into various venues...churches, public buildings, parks, traditional theatres and botanical gardens with an eye for reaching out to various publics. He also stretches his company by inviting new works by other choreographers, and has a stable of exciting musicians whose creations become new dance pieces.

The company’s recent performances at Cain Park’s Alma Theatre, which is a perfect venue for a company whose work invites close proximity, was a fine evening of entertainment.

‘IRON LUNG,‘ the opening piece, was the least crowd appealing. Choreographed by Kelly Garfield whose work has been described as “crazy smart, poetically subversive and brutally fun,” ‘IRON LUNG’ examines loss and recovery. It was not unified, often failing to flow together. The movements did not parallel the words of the music by Aqualung. It also failed to play to the company’s strengths...the ability to have controlled and meaningful movements. This was definitely not the same quality as Shimotakahara’s conceptions. Though well-danced, the company did not display its usual emotional involvement.

‘ELEVENELEVEN ,’ a world premiere dance choreographed by Artistic Associate and company member Amy Miller, with music by wonderkindt Ryan Lott, saw bodies flowing in parallel to the creative music. Exploring connectedness, there was a nice feeling created by the dancers working as one. The powerful ending brought a positive reaction from the audience. Like Miller herself, the piece was powerful and was greatly aided by Dennis Dugan’s well designed lighting.

Shimotakahara’s newest work, ‘LATITUDE,’ was a total audience pleaser. The ending was met with screaming praise and a standing ovation that continued well after most displays of appreciation. The movements, which fit the creative music of Hal Walker, were perfectly executed. Walker, who was on stage during the performance, and was even incorporated into the dancing itself, searches out and uses varying non-traditional instruments. He alternately and sometimes even simultaneously played the concertina, harmonica, Jews harp, and several instruments which defied definition. This was a delightful piece which found the dancers adding to the musical sounds by hand/thigh slapping. The company would be well-advised to have Walker conceive more music for them to develop into dances to add to their repertoire.

Damien Highfield added his talent to the company’s four unbelievably competent dancers: Felise Bagley, Amy Miller, Mark Otloski and David Shimotakahara. He fits well into the controlled meld of the others. Also dancing was Jennifer Lott, who has been with the company in recent performances. Lott, though she has developed under Shimotakahara’s coaching, still does not have the power of Miller or the grace of Bagley. Her style needs more honing to match the other company members.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: GroundWorks Dancetheater once again proved, in its Cain Park presentation, that it is the area’s premiere small modern and contemporary dance company.