Saturday, December 02, 2006

Landmark Series--Trinity Cathedral (Groundworks)

Groundworks continues to impress

Now in its eighth season, Groundworks Dancetheater continues to impress. Artistic Director David Shimotakahara has built a solid company which breaks outside traditional dance descriptions. The philosophy of combining the arts by having musicians create new works, which are then choreographed to both fit the venue and the dancers’ skills, while incorporating various electronic and theatrical devices, makes for exciting performance evenings.

In the company’s latest presentation, part of their Landmark Series, which places the dancers in various venues, they chose to perform in Trinity Cathedral. The combination of the glory of the gothic cathedral and the exciting choreography of Shimotakahara, Art Bridgman, Myrna Packer and Amy Miller, melded with the original music of Ryan Lott and Gustavo Aguilar and traditional music of J. S. Bach, brought about sustained applause from the near sold-out audience. Added to the over-all effect were costumes by Ray Zander and Janet Bolick which perfectly fit the mood of the dance and the creative lighting of Dennis Dugan.

The evening’s pieces, “Before With After,” “eleveneleven,” and “Through the Lens,” were each well-crafted.

Shimotakahara’s ‘Before With After,” examines life’s encounters and the intersection of joy and sorrow which reflected Bach’s keyboard tones. A piece which used the exceptional talents of Amy Miller, Felise Bagley, Jennifer Lott, Mark Otloski and Shimotakahara, consisted of flowing jumps, powerful gymnastics and controlled arm and body movements. The result was a compelling segment of dance.

Company member Amy Miller explored the implications of interconnectedness in choreographing “eleveneleven.” Ryan Lott’s original contemporary score was filled with energy and power that lent itself to Miller’s creative take on the moods and sounds. Bagley, Jennifer Lott, Damien Highfield and Otloski worked well together to create an interactive blend of carries, lifts and writhing movements on the floor, that was enveloping.

The highlight of the evening was ‘Through the Lens,” choreographers Bridgman and Packer’s break-through concept. Almost defying description, the piece was performed in front of and behind a massive opaque curtain. The dancers dove and rolled under the material, danced behind the screen, displaying configurations in varying degrees of large and small shadows, as well as realistically appearing before the curtain. This was a “WOW!” presentation.

In past reviews of the company I have recounted that newcomer Jennifer Lott had not yet matured to the level of the rest of the dancers. Shimotakahara’s choreography requires total body control and perfection in execution. Anyone who wavers from that weakens the over-all effect. It is a pleasure to announced that Lott, in this program, displayed tremendous growth in becoming an equal to the rest of the company.

Capsule judgement: Groundworks next, not to be missed presentation, will be at the Cleveland Botanical Garden on January 26, 27 and 28. For tickets call 216-721-1600 or visit the company’s website at