Sunday, April 01, 2007

Groundworks 3/07

GROUNDWORKS dances and Shimotakahara gets award

David Shimotakahara, artistic director of GroundWorks Dancetheater, is this year’s recipient of OhioDance’s award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of the art form. According to the executive director of Ohio Dance, a statewide service organization, “David was chosen to receive the award because of his innovative choreography, his many years of dedicated work in dance and dance art and his knowledge, experience and creativity.”

Those who have been attending GroundWorks’ performances, are aware of the reach for excellence that Shimotakahara inspires in his dancers and the creativity of his choreography.

This demand for perfection is both a boon and a bane to the company. The dancers, who have worked so long and so well together, tend to respond best to Shimotakahara’s precise choreography. With few exceptions, when turned over to others, though they are still excellent, they generally are not as proficient. This, in part, was the case at the company’s latest performance as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Danceworks ‘07.

In ‘HURRICANE HEART,’ a world premiere choreographed by Kelly Garfield, the dancers were not up to their usual level of physical control. However, the body positions often were not easily held and sometimes did not meld well from move to move. The units which made up the story, which was supposedly a hero’s journey that is never certain but not without hope, failed to cohesively develop the theme. A creative use of a rope to represent doorways and binding a person or people, was quite inventive. Overall, the piece lacked the company’s usual precision and clarity.

‘NANO,’ a David Shimotakahara choreographed world premiere, was more to the company’s image. Each movement perfectly fit Gustavo Aguilar’s music. Aguilar became part of the dance ensemble as he flowed from a snare drum center stage, to a stage right snare, to stage left drum and then back to the original instrument. Though overly long, it was fascinating to watch Aguilar use various implements to create the sounds and see how Shimotakahara had melded the music and the movements into a single concept to parallel each of the drummer’s textures and qualities.

‘THROUGH THE LENS’ has rightly been incorporated into the company’s repertoire. Art Bridgman and Myran Packer’s piece, which premiered at Trinity Cathedral late last year, is a break-through concept. As I stated the first time I reviewed it, “Almost defying description, the piece was performed in front of and behind a massive red 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.” I ended that review with “This was a ‘WOW’ presentation.” If anything, the piece was even better this time as a second screen, this time blue, was added to further enhance the visual images and effects.

Groundworks says goodbye to dancer Jennifer Lott and her husband Ryan as they depart for London. Ryan is a creative modern composer whose music has been used by not only Groundworks, but other local dance companies. Good luck in their adventure.

Capsule judgement: Groundworks remains one of the top dance companies in the area and deserves the adulation it is receiving.