Sunday, September 13, 2009

GroundWorks (Akron Ice House 9/13)

GROUNDWORKS presents Tenth Annual Concert at Akron’s Ice House

The Akron Ice House, where GroundWorks Dancetheater is performing its tenth annual production, is not the ideal setting for most arts performances. But the rough brick and cement walled, high ceilinged 1870 ice factory and storage unit, works well for this dance company, which thrives on audience intimacy and unusual settings. Groundworks has no home, per se. The community is its abode. The community of Trinity Cathedral, Cain Park, the Botanical Gardens, an outdoor stage in Lincoln Park. They all work for Groundworks.

GroundWorks’ mission is to develop and perform new works. Many are created by David Shimotakahara, the company’s artistic director, who for many years danced regularly with the company, but now makes less frequent appearances on stage. Others are created by emerging choreographer Amy Miller, who is also a company dancer and its Artistic Associate, and by guest choreographers.

The present evening of dance consisted of three pieces. The selections were each based on a theme and joint creations between choreographer and dancer(s) and/or musicians.

‘TIPPING POINT’ found Felise Bagley, Amy Miller, Sarah Perrett, Kelly Brunk and Damien Highfield, mainly seated on the floor, exploring isolation and group mind interactions, with little physical contact. Costumed in brown pants and blue tops, the ensemble jerked and twitched forward and back, from side to side, sometimes athletically lifting their bodies off the ground, and, on rare occasions, upright and moving around. Julie Keenan and Dennis Dugan’s lighting design allowed for odd-shaped shadows to appear on the roughly plastered side wall, developing a counter visual image to the dancers. The exhausting piece, which may have been a bit too long, was choreographed by KT Niehoff, with music composed and recorded by Sarah Murát.

‘VALANCE,’ in its world premiere, was choreographed by Amy Miller. Like Miller, the dance was athletic, powerful, and full of focused movement. Incorporating strong use of arms and body, there were unusual visual combinations of physical entanglements and out-of-the norm lifts and carries. The under-tow sound of running feet was often created visually, with both the piece’s starting and ending, consisting of actors in motion, first in a circle and then randomly. The “music,” which was composed and recorded by Peter Swendsen, was more electronic sound combined with human and mechanical interjections, than traditional music. As the program notes indicated, “’VALENCE’ began as an exploration of how dance could be music and music could become dance.” With this as the fulcrum for creation, the final outcome was a total integration of the two mediums. Miller’s choreography had the corps moving consistently in sync to the sounds.

The closing selection, Shimotakahara’s OPEN SEATING, from the company’s repertoire, creatively used four chairs positioned inside a square. The dancers moved over, under, on top of and beneath the seating to create a number of illusions. Basically five segments, it ranged from the powerful, to the operatic, to jazz, to the sensual and the nonsensical. Typical of Shimotakahara’s choreography, creativity and movement cohesion dominated. It was a nice conclusion to a fine evening of dance.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT; GroundWorks Dancetheater, is one the area’s best dance companies. Its talented and well-trained corps work as a cohesive group, displaying total awareness of the needs of contemporary dance to create segment after segment of audience pleasing performances.