Saturday, May 07, 2011

Fresh Inventions

Verb Ballets presents FRESH INVENTIONS

For the last several years Verb Ballets has used their Cleveland Public Theatre’s DANCEWORKS presentation time to do some inventing and innovating. Last year they selected new works by local composers and matched each selection to a local choreographer. Given a short period of preparation and rehearsal time, and the use of any or all of the company of dancers, the presentations were an opportunity for local dance aficionados to see new works invented.

This year Verb tried a different approach. Couple a member of the dance company and a piece of sculpture and see what happens. The results were very mixed. But, it must be remembered that the pieces were works in progress, not complete and tested dances.

The evening opened with Brian Murphy’s choreography of WAR ELEGY, based on music of the same name by Katharine O’Connell, and played live by talented cellist Regina Mushabee. The melancholy musical score and dance were inspired by a series of grotesque sculpture pieces which were pictured in the program. Though generally well danced, the piece lacked the clear story line needed to make a strong emotional impact.

RECALLING TENSIONS OF MIND was choreographed by Stephanie Krise to music by Stephen Smith and played by a live string quartet. Using sculptural poses and tandem movements, the movements fit the abstract music.

BREACH, choreographed by Erin Conway Lewis, was performed to Michael Leese’s Klavierstück. Played on a synthesizer by Nicholas Underhill, the music had a strong undertone that was reflected in the movements. Unfortunately, there was errant coordination and a lack of precision among the dancers.

The only piece that did not fit the company choreographer/company dancer theme/sculpture piece was NOUMENON MOBILUS, a 2010-2011 season company premiere, which was originally conceived in 1953. It was choreographed by Alwin Nikolais, who also wrote the music and did the lighting concept. The futurist selection was performed by Kara Madden and Rebecca Nicklos, who were each encased in a Mylar-material bag. Sitting on and moving around stools, the duo moved by stretching the materials in cadence to the music. The overall effect was audience pleasing.

ECHOES OF SILENT SCREAMS was performed without music. Voices related the stories of seven people who had been interviewed by choreographer Antwon Duncan. The conceiver’s intent was to “spread awareness and courage to all the unheard screams out there.” Though the idea was well intentioned, the overall effect was lacking. A bad sound system made the stories almost unintelligible and the piece was way too long and repetitious.

The highlight of the evening was Terrence Greene’s CALLIGRAPHY work in progress. Set to various musical selections, the constant feeling of ribbons floating in space were visualized by the hand and body movements of the dancers. Rebecca J. Nicklos and Brian Murphy effectively represented Ernestine and Malcolm Brown, local art benefactors who were being honored.

Guest dancer Mariano Moreno Albano did little to add to the male members of the company. He appeared to lack concentration and was late in many of his corps movements.

Capsule judgment: FRESH INVENTIONS was another in the series of introducing local audiences to new ideas and choreography. The idea has merit, but doesn’t always reach high levels of performance. This can be expected since these are works in progress.